How does a lead acid battery work?

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lead acid batteryToday we are looking at what exactly are lead acid batteries and how can they fit into your industrial battery needs. We will be looking how they work and how you can look after them effectively.

Many applications work more efficiently with lead acid batteries, and with the correct BMS (Battery Management System), your lead acid batteries will run effectively and efficiently for your business saving you time and money and allowing your batteries to maximise performance.

What is a lead acid battery?

Essentially, a lead acid battery is a rechargeable battery that uses both lead and sulphuric acid to work. A controlled chemical reaction is created when the lead is submerged into the sulphuric acid; the chemical reaction causes the battery to produce electricity. In order to recharge the lead acid battery, this reaction is reversed.

Lead acid batteries are not a new technology; invented in 1959, the lead-acid battery has been much improved over the years. Versions of lead acid batteries can be traced back much further though, to 1791 where a ‘trough’ battery was created by Luigi Galvani, who later went on to invent the voltaic pile. Not only is the lead acid battery highly effective, but there are also a variety of innovative battery products that help maintain and manage the batteries effectively for your business.

How does a lead acid battery work?

In simple terms, the lead acid battery’s electrical charge is generated when the sulphate within the sulphuric acid bonds to the lead. It is given an electronic charge which charges the battery, and the sulphate returns into the sulphuric acid.

There are only so many sulphate ions within the acid, and the surface area of the lead that it binds to, is also limited. As the sulphate depletes, the charge on the lead acid battery starts to weaken. This means that they are best used for applications that need a short and powerful burst of energy.

Let’s talk about lead acid battery self-discharge

Lead acid batteries can and will self-discharge, and this reaction can never be stopped entirely. They will continue to discharge, even when they are not in use. Although the self-discharge rate is extremely low, at around 1% per day, certain factors can increase this rate, such as battery temperature.

Therefore, a battery management system is essential, as it means that the lead-acid batteries will be monitored, kept at the correct temperatures, rotated and watered. The BMS will know which batteries to charge and when. They will even let the user know which battery to use next from the battery room.

What causes a lead acid battery to fail?

Various factors can damage and change the materials needed to create a chemical reaction. One of the leading causes of battery failure is allowing the battery to stay in a partially discharged state for an extended period. There are three main types of discharge:

Partial discharge – When a battery is discharged, the electrolyte solution lowers, leaving the lead plates partially exposed. If left exposed for any time, the sulphate that is already bonded to the lead can start to harden. If left untreated, the sulphate stays on the lead and stops the battery from being recharged properly.

This issue can be prevalent in car batteries as the battery itself recharges as you drive. If you do not drive your car very often or make a succession of shorter trips, the battery may never get fully recharged.

Deep discharge - Another major cause of battery death is a deep discharge when your lead acid battery is discharged below 50%. It means that small pieces from the lead plates can break away and sink into the electrolyte solution. This means less lead surface is available to cause the chemical reaction needed for the batteries to work effectively. If too much lead comes off, then the reaction will stop altogether. This can mean that your batteries are permanently ruined and will need to be replaced.

Overcharging – As the name suggests, this is when a lead acid battery keeps being charged when it already has a full charge. Overcharging can break down the electrolyte material, resulting in having no sulphate left to bond with the lead. A lead acid battery should not be plugged into a charger unless it needs to be charged.

Why choose lead acid batteries?

Despite their smaller size, lead acid batteries have a very powerful voltage and are an excellent option for heavy-duty equipment and tools. Not only that, but they can also power electric vehicles such as golf buggies and floor scrubbers. They are also great for motor vehicles as when you start your engine, they create an intense jolt of energy to get the car started, and they recharge themselves as you drive the car around.

The issues discussed can all be easily managed by using a Battery Management System in your company’s battery rooms such as the iBOS. The BMS will look after all aspects of your lead acid batteries so that their lifespan will be as long as possible. They help cut down on manual time spent trying to look after all aspects of the batteries such as temperature, watering and charging using an additional battery life monitor such as the eGO! Range of battery life monitors. It will tell you the life history of a battery, measuring performance and predicting when a battery needs to be replaced, help identify any issues before they cause damage and provide essential battery data which helps when making buying decisions for your business.

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