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zinc air

A battery technology that provides more charge per pound or size than nickel cadmium or nickel metal hydride without suffering from the memory effect. It uses a carbon membrane that absorbs oxygen, a zinc plate and potassium hydroxide as the electrolyte. The technology dates back to the 1920s, when large batteries were used for remote railroad switches and lights on harbor buoys.

Continuous Use
Air causes the chemical reaction and must be allowed into the cell when current is required and kept out when not. Thus, zinc air batteries are designed for continuous use. For example, when used for hearing aids, once activated, the zinc air battery continuously discharges.

Air Management
The pioneer in air management technology was AER Energy Resources Inc. AER's Diffusion Air Manager provided an economical method for getting air in and out, but the company closed its doors in 2003 after more than a decade of development. Used extensively in the military, security and transportation sectors, a leading producer of zinc air batteries is the Electric Fuel division of Arotech ( See batteries.

Keeping the Air Out
AER's patented Diffusion Air Manager used a tiny fan to force air in when a device needed power, and inlet and exit tubes kept the air out when the load was removed. (Image courtesy of AER Energy Resources, Inc.)


Following is a summary of the characteristics of popular battery technologies. For more details, see lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, lithium polymer, liquid metal battery, zinc air, CMOS battery and memory effect.


                   Recharge         Dis-
         Energy    Cycles    Fast   charge
         Density   To 80%   Charge  Per
 Type    (Wh/Kg)*  Capacity  (hrs)  Month

  Cadmium   45-80    1500     1      20%

 Nickel Metal
  Hydride   60-120  300-500   2-4    30%

  Ion      110-160  300-500   2-4    10%

  Polymer  100-130  300-500   2-4    10%

 Lead Acid   30-50  200-300   8-16    5%

                    To 50%
  Alkaline    80      50      2-3    0.3%

  Data courtesy of
  Cadex Electronics Inc. (

  * Wh/Kg = watt hours per kilogram

A Lot of Batteries
This roomful of lead acid batteries stands ready to drain itself entirely in less than a minute. It serves as interim power for a large datacenter between the time a power outage has been detected and the generators can come up to full speed.

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