Referring to a battery as something that creates electrical current is not technically accurate.

Such a battery is a group of electrical cells. Each cell produces the current. If wired in series, the voltage is higher. If wired in parallel, a higher current can be sustained.

Standard AA, AAA, C, D sized dry cells are not batteries, though common usage of the term is changing that. (English is a living language.)

The standard 9V size is a self-contained cell battery, providing two contacts from each end of the cells wired in series within. The standard automobile battery is also a group of cells that are combined in parallel to produce the huge current required to drive the starter motor.

Your batteries are not dead! Batteries seem to recover a little bit of their power if you don't use them for a while. When the battery powering my Diamond Rio 500 gives out, I save it, as later on I can get another 30 minutes or so out of it. Batteries are expensive, so this is a good idea.

I also take dead batteries from people's CD Players. The mp3 player, having no motor or laser, can work for an hour or so off of these.

In chess, the term battery refers to a group of two or more pieces positioned so that they are "aimed" along the same line (rank, file or diagonal). A pair of doubled rooks at e1 and e2, or a pair of rooks on the seventh rank, or a queen on d4 backed up by a bishop on c3 are all examples of batteries.

Battery naming conventions

When you are travelling abroad, or need to order batteries on the net, you might have come across the fact that batteries might have different names in different countries.

I am not sure about where all the different standards come from, but as far as I know, the R-series are used in germany, the "mignon" series are used in france, whereas the rest of the world tends to use the A-series of classification.

Name     A     LR    R    E    AM   Dimensions*  voltage**

Special  AAAA  LR61                 42.5 x  8.3  ?
Micro    AAA   LR03  R03  E92  AM4  44.5 x 10.5  1.5V
Mignon   AA    LR6   R06  E91  AM3  50.0 x 14.5  1.5V
Baby     C     LR14  R14  E93  AM2  50.0 x 26.2  1.5V
Mono     D     LR20  R20  E95  AM1  61.5 x 34.2  1.5V
Lady     N     LR1        E90       30.2 x 11.7  ?

* Dimensions = length x diameter in millimetres

** The voltage in rechargables is usually around 1.2 - 1.3V

What the different types are used for:

  • AAA is most often used in remote controls, voice recorders and similar.
  • AA is the most common size, used in remote controls, CD players, digital cameras, small flashlights (mini maglite etc) and other appliances. These batteries are also known as "penlight" batteries
  • C is most often used in portable stereos, some flashlights etc
  • D is you classical flashlight battery, as used by most baton-shaped flashlights, such as maglite etc.

They're everywhere; they permeate every aspect of our modern lives. Ubiquitous metal cylinders that power our lifestyles; our televisions, radios, CD players, portable phones, and clocks. Our cars, planes, and even our homes are no exception, they too contain devious contraptions of metal, acid, and wire. Even the hearts of our vice presidents are not free from the hidden enemy. Thousands die daily, but millions more take their places; they are silent, hidden from our eyes. Waiting for revenge.

The battery rebellion is almost at hand, but it has been in the making for hundreds of years. While technically a battery is an energy storage system, most people refer to a battery as a chemical/electrical system, rather than any object with potential energy (a flywheel, a spring, a piece of firewood, or a bucket of water).

Chemical electrical batteries work through a redox chemical reaction, short for reduction oxidation (the same reaction behind other tried and true human inventions like fire). Basically, an electrical current is generated when oxygen ions are mercilessly ripped from one molecule and forced upon another. A simple battery must then contain three things; two different materials (with contrasting oxidation potentials) and an electrolyte - the material which links the previous two and encourages the violent and unjust treatment of oxygen ions.

You, the suspicious and disbelieving soul, can test this out by mercilessly sticking a lemon with a strip of copper and a strip of zinc. The copper and zinc are the anode and cathode, and the lemon juice is the electrolyte. Of course, if you don't happen to have separate strips of pure copper and zinc lying around your house, then you're probably not cool enough to understand the process anyway.

History of the Battery

No one is sure who invented the 1st battery; the earliest specimen of one is the "Baghdad Battery", a number of clay jars discovered in Baghdad, Iraq in 1932. The battery is believed to be around 2000 years old, constructed during the Parthian period (250 BCE to CE 250). The device itself is a clay pot with an asphalt cork. An iron rod travels through the asphalt and into a cylinder attached to the cork which partially fills the jar, but does not touch the bottom. When the battery is filled with an electrolyte, such as wine or vinegar, it produces an electric charge.

No one is entirely sure what the Baghdad batteries were for; important electronic appliances (like toasters and walkmans) had not yet been invented. Many believe that the batteries were used to cover silver with gold when making jewelry; the process of electroplating.

There were a bunch of wars and a few hundred more years passed and the Baghdad batteries were forgotten; the technology to make fake jewelry was lost.

Until the 18th century, when Italian anatomist and physician Luigi Galvani had a bit too much fun exploring the applications of static electricity on dead frogs; static caused the frog legs to jump. Galvani, continuing to have a bit too much fun with dead frogs, also noted that the frog leg jumped when two different metals were applied to it. He concluded (wrongly) that the muscle created electricity.

Galvani wrote to his physicist pen pal Alessandro Volta, who would be credited as having created the 1st battery. Volta repeated the experiments and got the same results, he refused to accept the same conclusion as Galvani however, and conducted further tests. He postulated that the two metals, rather than the frog muscle, had created the electricity. He proved this by filled bowls with a salt solution and linking them together with wires of copper and zinc. In doing so he created the 1st modern battery, and lost a pen pal. Volta then made a stack of copper and zinc disks, separated by leather soaked in salt water. This "Voltanic Pile" created a large amount of current and everyone was really impressed and decided to name the measure of electric potential after him, the volt.

The term battery was coined by Benjamin Franklin in 1748, adapted from the word's other meaning; "to beat severely", which is what he decided an electric shock felt like. For the next odd hundred years batteries and electricity were mainly a novelty which rich bored balding white men would get shocked with and giggle. Many variations and improvements on Volta's design were made during this period, dozens of different metals and electrolytes were combined. In 1859 a bored French scientist, Planté, invented the lead-acid cell, the world's first rechargeable battery. It, of course, only worked with Planté brand rechargers and only came in a gaudy yellow color. Descendants of Planté's lead-acid design live on in modern car batteries.

Anyway, electricity and batteries remained primarily for the shits and giggles of bored scientists until some Thomas Edison dude showed up and started making useful electrical appliances. Edison, while often attributed with the creation of the electric light bulb, did not actually create it. He merely refined it enough so that it was easy to produce and lasted longer than 30 seconds. Edison and his Menlo Park team invented or refined dozens of useful inventions, like the movie projector, phonograph (a CD-less form of the CD player), radio, and electric chair; all of which are crucial to modern life.

Batteries in Modern Life

The vast majority of the batteries we handle in our lives are carbon-zinc based cells encased in pretty cylindrical or rectangular cases. Most of the batteries we handle (except for the ones in weird foreign or high-tech products) are rated on the same scale as women's busts. We are all familiar with the standard AAA, AA, C, and D cylindrical batteries. Walkie talkies and alarm clocks often use that weird rectangular 9 volt dealie with the crazy nub things. Battery standardization encourages consumer products to use the same subset of battery types, allowing us to cannibalize appliances we no longer love for their small cylindrical souls.

The consumer battery standard applies to single-use carbon-zinc based batteries (A number of rechargeable batteries are designed to meet the same specification, but don't technically fall into it). Single use batteries tend to be cheaper and more reliable than rechargeable batteries. They do, like the human race, have the unfortunate side effect of dying after outliving its usefulness. Once current is drained, the materials in carbon-zinc (and other single use batteries) are chemically changed and no longer emit current. Dead batteries make excellent chew toys for the kids.

Car batteries play a crucial, but unappreciated, role in our lives. Very little has changed in Planté's lead-acid battery design; modern science has only improved the purity of the ingredients involved. As their name implies, lead-acid batteries are extremely dangerous. Most car batteries consist of porous lead anodes and lead oxide cathodes, soaked in sulfuric acid. These extremely corrosive components are encased in thick plastic. The batteries, when overcharged, electrolyze the water within the sulfuric acid, separating it into hydrogen and oxygen which is all too happy to explode with Hindenburg-esque proportions.


Batteries have come a long way; from their earliest form as collaborators in fake-jewelry manufacturing schemes to the enslaved devices which power thousands of our electronic gadgets. With only more and more portable electronic appliances being invented, the battery is here to stay for a very, very, long time.

Credit is Given Where Credit is Due

"Battery," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2003 © 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved

"Batteries: History, Present, and Future of Battery Technology," Extreme Tech,3973,17631,00.asp. June 8, 2001


Node Your Homework

In law*, battery is a tort, consisting of a physical touching without consent, justification or privilege.

While the term "battery" originally referred to a beating, it has evolved into a question of consent rather than a matter of violence. Under the modern definition of "battery", if a surgeon operated without the patient's consent it could be deemed a "battery", whereas a thorough beating in the course of sporting event would not, as long as it was administered within the rules of the game. (Thus, in American football, a properly executed tackle could not be a "battery", but clipping might be, because it is against the rules.)

Privilege enters in when someone has a legal right to push you around. A shopkeeper, for example, can revoke your permission to be in his store and physically remove you from the premises. If a shopkeeper's goons beat the crap out of you, it would still not be a "battery" (though you might sue for "excessive use of force", which is a kind of negligence).

"Battery" is seldom asserted without a complementary claim of "assault", but they are distinct ideas in tort law. "Assault" consists of threatening bodily harm: it doesn't require actually carrying out the threat.

In criminal law, "assault" and "battery" are used somewhat interchangeably, or together, usually for violent attacks that actually do some serious damage.

*In Anglo-American civil common law, that is.
Tortious Battery in the US

Battery has several elements that must be met in order to have a civil action against another person. The following factors must be met:

  1. It must be a volitional and
  2. intentional act that causes
    • This can be intent to cause the tort, or
    • A substantial certainty that the tort would occur.
    • Note: Intent for the consequences is irrelevant, all that is required is intent for the contact..
  3. harmful or offensive contact
  4. with the Plaintiff's person.
    • Under Fisher v. Carrousel it is not required that you touch the plaintiff but merely anything connected with the plaintiff such as a plate s/he is holding or even something as large as a car s/he is driving.
If you cannot meet these elements, but were still injured and want to recover, then you may try to prove that the injury occured because of negligence.

Note: The person who commits the tort is known as a tortfeasor.

If you're like me and my household, you have a fair number of battery-powered gadgets and remotes and such and the cells pile up. We ended up with a drawer full of random batteries of unknown remaining lifespan. And when I say "full", it was full: we had at least five pounds of batteries in there. Not only is this a bit of a fire hazard with the little square nine volt batteries, it's generally untidy and less-than-useful, particularly when a dead battery bursts and leaks corrosive goo all over the good ones.

My tip, if you're prone to clutter: get a battery tester, and keep your batteries in a plastic box designed for the purpose. If you're not the sort to have a voltmeter on hand, these testers are not expensive, and they're much handier than having to guess or try unknown batteries in a remote or appliance to test them. Keep the good ones in the box. Identify a nearby electronics business that will take batteries for recycling, and keep a ziplock bag handy for the dead ones. Carry out your dead to the recycling place on the regular. Voila! Our drawer is no longer cluttered, at least not with leaky batteries.

This weekend, I sat in the living room testing each of our large pile of batteries to weed out the dead ones for recycling. Many fewer were dead than I expected. I found that I started talking to them as if they are dogs: "Who's a good battery? You are! Yes you are!"

My husband seemed revolted.

Bat"ter*y (?), n.; pl. Batteries (#). [F. batterie, fr. battre. See Batter, v. t.]


The act of battering or beating.

2. Law

The unlawful beating of another. It includes every willful, angry and violent, or negligent touching of another's person or clothes, or anything attached to his person or held by him.

3. Mil. (a)

Any place where cannon or mortars are mounted, for attack or defense.


Two or more pieces of artillery in the field.


A company or division of artillery, including the gunners, guns, horses, and all equipments. In the United States, a battery of flying artillery consists usually of six guns.

Barbette battery. See Barbette. -- Battery d'enfilade, or Enfilading battery, one that sweeps the whole length of a line of troops or part of a work. -- Battery en 'echarpe, one that plays obliquely. -- Battery gun, a gun capable of firing a number, of shots simultaneously or successively without stopping to load. -- Battery wagon, a wagon employed to transport the tools and materials for repair of the carriages, etc., of the battery. -- In battery, projecting, as a gun, into an embrasure or over a parapet in readiness for firing. -- Masked battery, a battery artificially concealed until required to open upon the enemy. -- Out of battery, or From battery, withdrawn, as a gun, to a position for loading.

4. Elec. (a)

A number of coated jars (Leyden jars) so connected that they may be charged and discharged simultaneously.


An apparatus for generating voltaic electricity.

⇒ In the trough battery, copper and zinc plates, connected in pairs, divide the trough into cells, which are filled with an acid or oxidizing liquid; the effect is exhibited when wires connected with the two end-plates are brought together. In Daniell's battery, the metals are zinc and copper, the former in dilute sulphuric acid, or a solution of sulphate of zinc, the latter in a saturated solution of sulphate of copper. A modification of this is the common gravity battery, so called from the automatic action of the two fluids, which are separated by their specific gravities. In Grove's battery, platinum is the metal used with zinc; two fluids are used, one of them in a porous cell surrounded by the other. In Bunsen's or the carbon battery, the carbon of gas coke is substituted for the platinum of Grove's. In Leclanch'e's battery, the elements are zinc in a solution of ammonium chloride, and gas carbon surrounded with manganese dioxide in a porous cell. A secondary battery is a battery which usually has the two plates of the same kind, generally of lead, in dilute sulphuric acid, and which, when traversed by an electric current, becomes charged, and is then capable of giving a current of itself for a time, owing to chemical changes produced by the charging current. A storage battery is a kind of secondary battery used for accumulating and storing the energy of electrical charges or currents, usually by means of chemical work done by them; an accumulator.


A number of similar machines or devices in position; an apparatus consisting of a set of similar parts; as, a battery of boilers, of retorts, condensers, etc.

6. Metallurgy

A series of stamps operated by one motive power, for crushing ores containing the precious metals.



The box in which the stamps for crushing ore play up and down.

8. Baseball

The pitcher and catcher together.


© Webster 1913.

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