Common types of batteries include zinc-carbon, alkaline, lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries. Zinc-carbon and alkaline batteries are most often used as small household batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are used in rechargeable devices such as cell phones and laptops, while lead-acid batteries are most often used in vehicles.
The difference between these battery types is the chemical composition. Different anodes, cathodes and electrolytes give each battery type a different performance profile. This affects their electrical output, useful life and ability to recharge.
Zinc-carbon and alkaline batteries both use zinc for the anode and magnesium dioxide for the cathode. The difference between the two is the electrolyte: alkaline batteries use potassium hydroxide for their electrolyte and zinc-carbon batteries use ammonium chloride. Alkaline batteries derive their name from their electrolyte, which is highly alkaline.
Lithium-ion batteries do not have one single chemistry. They all utilize some form of lithium for the cathode, but electrolytes and anodes vary. The most common variety of lithium-ion battery uses lithium cobalt oxide for the cathode and carbon for the anode. The electrolyte is a lithium salt dissolved in an organic solvent.
Lead-acid batteries use lead dioxide for the cathode and metallic lead for the anode. The electrolyte is sulfuric acid. This combination is where lead-acid batteries get their name.