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What is a Dry Cell Battery?

By Rebecca Partington
Updated May 16, 2024
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The dry cell battery is one of the most commonly used types, including AA, 9-volt, and watch batteries. Dry cell batteries are different from wet cells because their electrolytes are contained in a low-moisture paste, while a wet cell has electrolytes contained in a liquid, hence the difference in names. A chemical reaction within the battery creates an electrical charge that flows from inside to an outer circuit that is connected to an electrical device.

What It Is Made Of

Dry cell batteries, regardless of their size, typically have the same basic components. At the center of each is a rod called a cathode, which is often made of carbon and surrounded by an electrolyte paste. Different chemicals can be used to create this paste, such as ammonium chloride and manganese dioxide, depending on the type of battery. The cathode and electrolyte paste are wrapped in paper or cardboard and sealed into a metal cylinder called an anode, which is typically made of zinc.

How It Works

The anode in the dry cell battery has two terminals, one that is positive and one that is negative. When a load is connected to the battery's terminals, a chemical reaction occurs between the anode and the paste that produces roughly 1.5 volts of electricity. A pin or "collector" in the middle of the battery conducts this charge out of the battery to an external circuit. This circuit physically connects to the electronic device the battery is in, providing the charge necessary for the device to function.

Each set of anode, electrolyte, and cathode acts as a single cell, and multiple cells can be connected together within one dry cell battery to produce a higher overall voltage. After the load has been connected for a long time, the battery's chemicals break down and no longer produce a charge. Primary batteries should be discarded once they reach this point, while secondary batteries can be recharged through special devices. This effectively reverses the chemical reaction within each cell, allowing the battery to continue working.

Different Types

Alkaline batteries are more popular than their older counterparts because they corrode more slowly and thus produce a charge longer. A less commonly used type of dry cell battery uses silver for the cathode rod. Nickel/Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), and Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries are rechargeable, making them popular for use in power-hungry digital cameras and other portable devices.

Proper Handling and Disposal

Batteries frequently contain chemicals that are harmful if released into the environment, and should be recycled properly. Many municipal recycling programs accept batteries, though modern alkaline ones can typically be thrown away with household trash. Consumers should also consider using rechargeable batteries because they can be reused many times and can also be recycled after they no longer hold a charge.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon359859 — On Dec 21, 2013

Why does a dry cell stop working?

By anon334611 — On May 14, 2013

What is the positive and negative terminal in a dry cell?

By anon241479 — On Jan 18, 2012

@anon63693: The leclanche cell is a wet cell. Thus he did not invent it.

By anon236694 — On Dec 25, 2011

How was this dry battery made by Sakizou Yai?

By anon104091 — On Aug 15, 2010

what does a dry cell contain?

By anon99298 — On Jul 26, 2010

What is actually better? Dry or Wet?

By anon90591 — On Jun 16, 2010

Is a maintenance-free battery a dry cell?

By anon82212 — On May 05, 2010

the voltage of a dry cell is 1.5 volt dc, but what about current?

By anon79637 — On Apr 23, 2010

Does a dry cell battery have AC current, or DC current?

By anon73635 — On Mar 28, 2010

How big can a dry cell battery get?

By anon71475 — On Mar 18, 2010

what is an anode?

By anon63693 — On Feb 03, 2010

the dry cell was actually invented by georges leclanche. hence, it is also known as the leclanche cell.

By anon59786 — On Jan 10, 2010

What are the chemical components in the electrolyte paste in the dry battery cells?

By anon39577 — On Aug 03, 2009

Is a dry cell battery charged before or after it is put into lube?

By anon39078 — On Jul 30, 2009

what is the difference between a wet cell battery and a dry cell battery because they both have liquid?

By anon37574 — On Jul 20, 2009

can you store a dry cell battery inside a house with or without heat eg. rural camp

By anon37347 — On Jul 18, 2009

does a dry cell battery have to be charged first like a wet cell or is it done when the components are put together it creates its own charge.thanks.

By anon37239 — On Jul 17, 2009

can i have the information in the form of a video please?

By andy1lil — On Jun 22, 2009

Why do torchlights use dry cells as their source of energy?

By anon28959 — On Mar 25, 2009

Hello!

I want to know the chemical reactions which occur during the working of dry cell when it is connected to a circuit?

Kamal

By anon22981 — On Dec 13, 2008

to anon21344: Multiple cells are commonly connected in series within a single case or battery compartment within a device to form a dry battery (or dry cell battery) of greater voltage than is provided by one cell.

By anon21344 — On Nov 14, 2008

Second paragraph, last sentence should read: These components [not one or more - and it is not a cell until it is combined with the anode] are then sealed...typically made of zinc. [The anode is not made of alkaline. Some cells have an alkaline electrolyte.]

Third paragraph, first sentence: The dry cell [not the anode] has two [only two] terminals - one connected to the anode, the "-" terminal and one connected to the cathode, the "+" terminal.

By ewjarrell — On Feb 10, 2008

What happens when a dry cell battery goes dead?

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