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Batteries play numerous important roles in everyday life, from providing the initial power needed to start the engines of cars to acting as a backup source of electricity in telecommunications, public transportation and medical procedures. Batteries also have the potential to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by efficiently storing electricity generated from both conventional and renewable energy sources and as a source of power for electric vehicles. For more on the future opportunities of batteries, click here.
A battery is an energy storing system based on electrochemical charge/discharge reactions. During discharge the chemical energy is converted into electrical energy and during charge the energy is reconverted into chemical energy. In a primary battery system only the discharge reaction can be used, and the battery's components must be recycled. A secondary or rechargeable battery system is characterized by a charge/discharge reaction that is reversible, allowing for repeated use.
The higher the reversibility of the reaction the more often a battery can be charged/discharged. The process of a full charge to full discharge and back to full charge is known as a cycle. A battery's cycle life is how many cycles the battery can go through before the battery must be replaced. The electrical energy stored in a battery is directly related to the chemical energy being stored. The cathode incorporates an oxidizing material, the anode a reducing component. The laws of nature have fixed specific energy limits to electrochemical systems from the periodic table of elements (see below). However, most chemical reactions cannot be used in a battery system because they are not reversible in an electrochemical cell.
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