This document covers the following types of batteries: lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, dry cells, thermal, and lithium primary batteries. These battery types comprise most of the batteries used by the military. Specific applications are listed in each battery section.
Lead-acid batteries are the most widely used rechargeable batteries in the world. Applications for lead-acid batteries span the range from small portable devices to large sizes as used in submarines. The duty cycle can vary from a short duration pulse (milliseconds) to a sustained discharge over several hours. Both the battery product and the manufacturing process are proven, economical and reliable. The maturity of lead-acid battery technology and the diversity of applications have combined to result in many battery configurations.
Nickel-Cadmium batteries are rechargeable. They are rugged and reliable. They exhibit a high power capability, a wide operating temperature range and a long cycle life. In small sizes, they may be sealed, thus requiring no addition of water. Sealed cells are available in two types: hermetically sealed, used primarily in aerospace applications, and safety valve sealed, used in portable battery operated devices.
Dry cells are non-rechargeable and commonly called primaries. The most widely used is the zinc-alkaline manganese dioxide type (called alkaline). The next major system is the carbon-zinc (called Leclanché). The dry cells are widely used in portable devices. They are used as single cells or in series to make up a battery.
A thermal battery is a high temperature molten salt primary battery (non-rechargeable). When power is required, an integral pyrotechnic heat source is ignited by either an electric initiator or a mechanically actuated percussion primer. The ignited heat source melts the solid electrolyte and energy is produced electrochemically for periods of a few seconds to an hour. The term "thermal battery" refers to a family of batteries using different electrochemical systems that are inert until activated by application of heat. Thermal batteries, before activation, do not self-discharge and therefore offer excellent storage life.
Lithium Primary Batteries
Lithium primary batteries are non-rechargeable. (They are different from the secondary or rechargeable lithium batteries which are still in stages of research and development and are not on the market.) They use lithium metal and organic electrolytes and therefore are sensitive to water and damp air. For this reason, they have to be fully sealed. They offer performance advantages well beyond the capabilities of conventional aqueous electrolyte battery systems in terms of energy densities and storage life. However they are not widely used because of some safety concerns regarding the instability of lithium under certain conditions.
There are several types of lithium batteries. Solid cathode batteries are safer than other types of lithium batteries (liquid). Because of energy density and storage life capabilities of these systems, the number of military applications of these batteries is increasing. If Navy safety procedures are followed the hazards of their use can be minimized.