These AAA alkaline cells were made in 2007. This is what they looked like in about 2016 or 2017:
Not much has changed since then. I typically purchase batteries in lots of 50 or more. I've noticed that all the batteries from a single lot act much in the same way. In other words, they all leak at the same time. With some lots, I get lucky and they never leak. Others, like those in the photos, will leak while still in the bubble package. The SoC (state of charge) doesn't seem to matter. I'm finding almost discharged and unused batteries start to leak at the same time. Temperature does make a difference. Alkaline cells stored in the refrigerator (not freezer) last longer before they leak, but will eventually leak anyway.
Over the years, I've systematically removed alkaline batteries from my equipment and replaced them with whatever is appropriate. I've had good luck with Energizer Ultimate Lithium cells. They're expensive, but so it the equipment a leaky battery will ruin.
For most everything else, I've switched to either NiMH, LiIon, or LiPo rechargeable cells. For LiIon and LiPo, I install voltage dropping diodes, a regulator IC, or something to bring the voltage down to something that won't destroy the electronics. NiMH is close enough to alkaline cell voltage that it can be used without modification.
For 9V batteries, I use the 600ma-hr LiPo rechargeable replacements:
Quality sucks, prices have doubled to $8/ea, but long term cost of ownership is still much better than having alkaline batteries trash my equipment. Besides being rechargeable, they LiIon and LiPo will hold their charge for a long time. It's nice having an almost fully charged battery ready when I decide to use a rarely used piece of equipment.
I have had bad luck with Duracell batteries. They seem to leak when used in items that are low usage. The emergency flashlight in my bedside table and the batteries in my thermostat for example. I have had to spend quite a bit of time, off and on, cleaning contacts when I used Duracell.
Now I always use Energizer batteries. I have never had any of them leak.
My aging brain had made an invalid comparison to fuel oil. Back in the mid 90's I was an engineer working on an underground storage tank replacement for the military, trying to meet the new tank requirements. Back then the military had a requirement for redundant backups, and some buildings had large fuel oil storage even if they'd been converted to gas. I ended up digging up a couple hundred tanks and only replacing about 20 of the big ones, which were refilled with fresh #2 fuel oil. Some of the old oil had been unused for decades but it was still good; disposal was cheap because it was all recyclable. One of those tanks needed to be removed again a few years later when the building was demolished. That oil had decomposed due to biological action. There was more than a foot of jello on the bottom. I did some research and found the chemistry of fuel oil had changed during that time period and it was not as stable.
Sorry for the trip down memory lane. That was a good project, I brought it in 2 years early and $2 million under budget, my boss got promoted. (and eventually I became the boss so it all worked out)
I've had a similar experience, both with Duracell, and with the Costco Kirkland house-brand batteries which are reputed to be made by the Duracell plants. The first Kirkland batteries I bought (for some years) were fine, but in the last 5 years or more they've been prone to leak in those low-usage applications.
What I've heard is that this leakage problem is tied to the removal of mercury from the alkaline-battery chemistry. In the older batteries, a small amount of a mercury compound acts as some sort of scavenger in the electrochemistry, binding up one of the post-discharge chemical products somehow. Without the mercury, even a partial discharge of the battery triggers a corrosive process which attacks the metal in the battery's outer shell, and leaks result.
I've even had Kirkland AA batteries leak while still in the original package, well before their "best by" date, when they hadn't ever been discharged at all.
I've been buying Energizer AA and AAA alkalines more recently and have not had leak problems. Buying the "industrial" versions in bulk seems to be the way to go - they're the same batteries as the consumer blister-pack versions (according to the manufacturer) but are distinctly cheaper.
The best reliability and lifetime seems to come from the "Ultimate" lithium AA and AAA cells. They're pricey (again, best to buy in bulk) but I have yet to have any leak, at any level of discharge.
That's also what I've heard. However, I can't seem to find any research reports or papers on the topic of lead (stabilizer) in alkaline cells. So far, this is what I've collected:
This article, from 1999 has some details and is the source of quite a bit of the cut-n-paste vague comments on lead in alkaline cells:
"In the early 90s, government mandate ruled out the use of mercury in alkaline cells providing a major challenge to manufacturers. Mercury, an environmental pollutant, was used in alkaline batteries as an anti-passivation stabilizer for the zinc electrode. Without mercury, chemical processes within the battery cause the zinc to function less efficiently as discharge proceeds because of passivation of zinc surface, thus limiting useful battery life. Manufacturers, such as Energizer and Duracell rose to the challenge and we now have mercury free cells that function just as well as their predecessors."
More recent stuff from the EPA:
"IMERC Fact Sheet Mercury Use in Batteries" (2015)
"Gas can form in all of these types of button batteries due to the corrosion of zinc. Zinc in the battery gets corroded into the electrolyte as the battery is used. This corrosion can cause electrolysis and can cause the generation of hydrogen gas in the canister. Build-up of hydrogen gas can cause the battery to leak, limiting the ability of the battery to function. Mercury suppresses this zinc corrosion, which is why it is added to button-cell batteries. These batteries may contain mercury in the insulating paper surrounding the battery, or mercury may be mixed in the anode itself. Any chance you have some references or maybe a research report? I've been chasing this one for years without any luck.
I have a rather simple-minded approach to batteries, and so far that has paid off: a) Use Name-Brand only. Those that guarantee 'full replacement' of any item damaged by their failure. No others, no matter how attractive the price. b) Do not leave standard (non-hard-wired rechargeable) batteries in-situ unless they are checked every six (6) months. c) Pay attention to self-discharge rates when choosing types. d) Pay attention to date-codes. e) Dispose of 'spent' batteries as hazardous landfill - our township accepts any and all sorts of batteries from all residents at no cost.
May I suggest a few additions to your list: f) Watch out for "phantom loads" or "parasitic drain", where the device does not quite turn off completely and slowly discharges the battery. Digital calipers are a common example. g) Make a list of every device you own that contains a battery with the potential of leaking. When I first did this, I had over 200 gizmos that required regular inspection. As I started replacing alkaline cells with rechargeable cells (that don't leak), the list is now down to about 40 gizmos. h) The local landfill takes batteries, but requires that 9V battery terminals be insulated with tape. Apparently, they had a problem. This is what happened when a friend shorted a 9V alkaline Duracell:
i) Store new batteries in the fridge. That slows down any internal chemical reactions that might corrode the battery. Don't forget to let them warm to room temperature before using. j) Select your battery charger carefully. Overcharging will kill batteries.
Oh well. I would expect that the invention of lead free batteries of various types would be patentable. Yet, when I've dived into the patent pool and searched for such a miraculous invention, I find nothing. I might try again if time permits. Thanks.
In my google search "has the quality of alkaline batteries gotten worse over time", several different sites come up including popular mechanics. Click on or copy the link from below:
Why Your Gadgets' Batteries Degrade Over Time
What I gleaned from reading the content on these links is that even with the best conditions, you will have a dead battery in 3-4 years. They recommend rechargeable batteries best. The "Rayovac" brand primarily is the worst and leaks the most (in most cases- except for one). The dollar store batteries are made with zinc and another chemical are not recommended and do not last as long.
The key is alkaline batteries are good, but they have gone up in price. For the costs involved, you can get a rechargeable battery and have it be more serviceable in the long run. If you are dead set on getting or using alkaline batteries as many devices say you can use, you may consider getting an alkaline battery charger, so you can pull the batteries out of the device and utilize the charger to charge them. The chargers will even do 9-volt alkaline batteries as well. With batteries running up in cost to $5.00 each for alkaline, it is not a bad idea to get an alkaline recharger device, if you use alkaline batteries.
For long term storage, the recommendations for batteries are drain the power down 50% of duty cycle (power capacity). Store in a cool place (refrigeration). When you go to use them, you need to charge them up full on a trickle charge or use the recharger. Make sure they are at 100% before you use them and then run the down fully. Use the recharger and you are back to normal usage.
Consider other variables, excessive heat, humidity, moisture, the deep freeze, and other conditions. All batteries in some way are a chemistry problem. The chemical composition each is made of has to factor in the appropriate application you intend to use the battery for and how often you use the device (especially timers and other appliances that have intermittent or from time to time use).
Just thought I would impart this advice and encourage you to read several links from the google search quoted. God Bless you and have a great day.
P.S. It depends on the what materials the cases are composed of that holds the chemistry inside of the casing. Quality can vary. Buyer Beware and avoid sticker shock on the high prices of batteries. They have really gone up.
Starrett and Mitutoyo calipers are not a problem. They turn off completely and don't drain the battery. The problem is the cheap calipers commonly found on Harbor Fright, eBay and Amazon.
There are various solutions. The easiest is to simply remove the button cells when the calipers are not in use. That's what I do. I also use silver-oxide button cells instead of alkaline. Silver-oxide cells have a flat discharge voltage curve and will remain alive for longer. There are also some rather crude solutions:
Oddly, I have the calipers in the photo and they do NOT exhibit a self-discharge problem.
I also have a pile of these calipers that were salvaged from a machine shop "auction". All of this style will self discharge to varying degrees:
The big problem is loosing the plastic battery cover.
I think you're confusing different battery chemistries. Shelf life on alkaline batteries is guaranteed by the manufactory to be 5, 7, or 10 years from date of manufacture depending on vendor.
For NiMH cells, I use Eneloop LSD (low self discharge cells). I've tested their ability to hold a charge and found them to 80% charged at
Agreed, especially LiIon or battery yet, LiFePO4.
Most alkaline batteries are made with zinc. Notice how often zinc is mentioned in the Wikipedia article:
Rechargeable batteries have also increased in cost.
WRONG! Conventional alkaline cells are not rechargeable. If you look, I think it even says so on the package. However, there are rechargeable alkaline cells that can be PARTIALLY recharged. Unlike other rechargeable chemistries, rechargeable alkaline cells recover an ever decreasing percentage of full charge until they are useless.
The also have a miserable self discharge time, where they are dead if not used within 6 months. The combination of these "features" make rechargeable alkaline cells somewhat useless.
That's the common recommendation for rechargeable cells. It's generally true for LiIon. It's not true for NiMH. In reality, the
50% charge storage recommendation is to make the batteries safe for shipping:
"In accordance with IATA, all lithium ion batteries (without equipment) shipped by air must not exceed 30% SoC."
Not exactly. Each chemistry has its own charge profile. For example, the best way to kill a random battery is to "fast charge" it. Also, trickle chargers don't work well with some chemistries. Use a charger that matches the manufacturers recommendations for the battery chemistry.
Running LiIon, NiCd, NiMH, and lead-acid batteries to zero are a great way to kill them. That why LiIon battery packs come with a BMS (battery management system) PC board to prevent you from completely discharging the battery. For a time, NiCd cells did have a "memory effect" problem which could be reversed by discharging to zero, but that's no longer the case with modern battery chemistries.
Well, you're off to a bad start in the information business. However, don't take it personally. Understanding the characteristics of various battery chemistries is tricky and often confusing. There's also quite a bit of bad advice on the internet. I suggest skimming this site for better information. There are things I disagree with on the site, but it's better than most:
Manufacturers can say anything for their marketing and to get your money out of you. I have rarely ever seen a product live up to its claim- especially in regards to time. Buyer Beware. I am inclined to think that in regards to batteries, the data about them is made up on longevity. Then it depends upon the conditions that are subjected to that. Tell me, who really tests these batteries anyways to determine how long they last?
Oops! mistakes here. Correcting.
Will do. Thank you.
I really appreciate the information you had posted on the different battery chemistries out there. Yes, they are confusing. I am not a chemist (although I know batteries require chemicals to work and that they work within a range of temperatures and specific gravities)- I am a tech. Different batteries do a bit of a different kind of thing, even though there are variations all over the place. I appreciate the information.
Well, just about any manufacturer that wants to sell products in the USA or EU dreads the day when they receive a letter from an attorney announcing a class action lawsuit on behalf of a currently unspecified mob of "victims" by their product not living up to advertised specifications.
If Costco or Kirkland specifies a 7-year *SHELF* life for their AAA alkaline cells, they had better be certain that the batteries will not be dead on arrival after 7 years of sitting on the shelf.
I'm dead tired right now and don't want to go looking for battery test methods and standards. There should be something in here:
Lots of battery test labs found using Google:
I guess I should mention that the "life" of a battery is rather ambiguous. The first questions is which life test? Shelf life, run time, cycle life (number of charge cycles) and all the aforementioned lives under adverse environmental conditions (hot, cold, humidity, immersion, altitude, various gases, explosion proof, etc).
I would NOT expect to see laboratory test results for batteries found on eBay or Amazon, but retail, industrial, commercial, aviation, construction, and other mission critical applications demand lab tests and certifications before they'll buy anything that might ruin their day.
Y'er welcome. Much of what I've done in my checkered past has involved some flavor of chemistry. I survived some classes in college, but the rest I learned by reading the books and "Learn by Destroying". I still have the scorch marks on my Formica workbench and oak kitchen table. I'm retired now, so I spend my time watching others repeat my mistakes on YouTube. However, you don't really need to know much about chemistry to work with batteries. I believe it's more important to learn about the electronics that are wrapped around the battery and which are used to charge the battery. For example, the all important ESR (equivalent series resistance), which is the basis for what separates a good battery from a dead battery, can be understood and used without much knowledge of the chemical reactions involved.
I mentioned Battery University. I think you'll also find these sites interesting and useful:
I really appreciate the greats lengths you went to in your explanation. I am going to the sites you recommended to learn more. I did have a nagging question. In the late 1980's and into the early 1990's, Radio Shack actually sold an alkaline battery "recharger", or so they called it, for around $50.00 retail back then. They stated it will recharge alkaline batteries despite the responses you made to the contrary in your replies. Would you clarify what this product
- the alkaline battery 'recharger' as Archer claims it was- actually did then since this company actually made that claim? I even bought one- although it was 30 years ago when I did. This is a mystery I would like to solve. Also, by asking this, I am not going contrary to what you said- I would just like to know to put the issue to bed for good. I really appreciate your valued opinion and request your clarification on this.
Nothing found. If Google and Bing can't find it, it doesn't exist. The double quotes in the Google search means that the word "alkaline" must be found in the results.
I don't recall seeing any Radio Shack conventional alkaline chargers. They did sell chargers that were intended to charge alkaline rechargeable batteries such as Rayovac Renewals batteries.
Radio Shack did sell a fair number of "Universal" charger models. However, RS was very careful to specify the type of battery chemistry that could be recharged.
However, there were a few chargers that didn't clearly specify that they were not intended to recharge conventional alkaline batteries. For example:
Notice the reviews. Yes, you can trickle charge a new alkaline battery to about 30% SoC, maybe once. However, it takes forever to recharge and usually causes the cell to leak electrolyte. I don't think there was any "experimenter" in that era that didn't at least try to recharge alkaline cells in whatever charger they had available. When I tried it, the cells overheated, melted the plastic and made a big mess. Lesson learned.