Children ask, the taz answers: How do batteries work?
We want to know from children which questions are on their mind. We answer one every week. This question comes from Emil, 10 years old.
Have you ever heard of physics and chemistry? These two sciences tell us exactly how batteries work. So: goggles on, overalls on, ears pricked – we’re going to get to the bottom of it now.
A battery has a plus and a minus pole. With the disposable batteries you can see the poles really well. On one side you’ll find a small metal cap, that’s the positive pole, and on the other a metal bottom, that’s the negative pole. Disposable batteries can no longer be used when they are empty. Other batteries can recharge. These batteries are also called rechargeable batteries, the mobile phone has such a rechargeable battery, for example.
From here, battery researcher Maximilian Fichtner helps with the details: “Each pole of a battery contains a material that is structured a bit like a shelf,” he explains. In addition, there are positively charged moving particles that could be stored in such a battery shelf. The particles are very small, they are called lithium-ions. Ion is a Greek word meaning “wanderer”. In addition to the positive particles, there are also negative particles, they are called electrons.
So there is quite a lot going on in such a battery. Researcher Fichtner explains why it is able to capture electricity as follows: There must always be a balance, which means there must always be the same amount of positive and negative particles. “When the battery is charged, the lithium ions all sit together on the negative pole shelf, along with negatively charged electricity particles.”
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If you connect the battery to a Electricitycircle, for example to light up a lamp, then the positive particles move out of their shelves. Do you remember? That was the lithium ions. Maximilian Fichtner says: “They swim through a liquid, the so-called electrolyte, to the positive pole, where they sort themselves back onto the shelf.” Because the negative current particles really want to come with them, but the path via the liquid is blocked for them, they take it detour via the cable. “And boom – we have electricity,” says Fichtner.
When you are older, you will get to know these particles better in class. Maybe then you can measure for yourself how they move from one side to the other. This is called electrical voltage.