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Mercury battery

A mercury battery (also called mercuric oxide battery, or mercury cell) is a non-rechargeable electrochemical battery, a primary cell. Due to the content of mercury, and the resulting environmental concerns, the sale of mercury batteries is banned in many countries.

Sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide are used as an electrolyte. Sodium hydroxide cells have nearly constant voltage at low discharge currents, making them ideal for hearing aids, calculators, and electronic watches. Potassium hydroxide cells, in turn, provided constant voltage at higher currents, making them suitable for applications requiring current surges, eg. photographic cameras with flash, and watches with a backlight. Potassium hydroxide cells also have better performance at lower temperatures. Mercury cells have very long shelf life, up to 10 years.

Mercury batteries use either pure mercuric oxide or a mix of mercuric oxide with manganese dioxide as the cathode. The anode is made of zinc and separated from the cathode with a layer of paper or other porous material soaked with electrolyte. During discharge, zinc oxidizes to zinc oxide and mercuric oxide gets reduced to elementary mercury. Mercury batteries are very similar to silver-oxide batteries.

Mercury batteries using mercury(II) oxide cathode have a very flat discharge curve, holding constant 1.35 V (open circuit) voltage until about last 5% of their lifetime, when their voltage drops rapidly. Mercury batteries with cathodes made of a mix of mercuric oxide and manganese dioxide have output voltage of 1.4 V and more sloped discharge curve.

The ban on sale of mercury oxide batteries caused numerous problems for photographers, whose equipment frequently relied on their advantageous discharge curves and long lifetime. Alternatives used are zinc-air batteries, with similar discharge curve but much shorter lifetime (few months) and poor performance in dry climates, alkaline batteries with voltage widely varying through their lifetime, and silver-oxide batteries with higher voltage (1.55 V) and very flat discharge curve, making them possibly the best, though expensive, replacement.[1]


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See also

  • Button cell
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mercury_battery". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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