How Does a Wet Cell Battery Work?

By Alison Vavra

What is a Wet Cell Battery?

Wet cell batteries were created in 1836 by John Frederic Daniell. The creating of the wet cell battery was one of the first types of modern batteries to be developed. The first was fragile and immobile, but thanks to many years of modifications, the wet cell battery has become one of the most common batteries in use today.

In simple terms a wet cell battery derives its power from chemical reactions. There are two types of wet cell batteries: primary and secondary. A primary wet cell battery can only be used until its chemicals no longer react with each other. And a secondary wet cell battery can be recharged. A car battery is a great example of a secondary wet cell battery because it is recharged by using the car's alternator.

How do Wet Cell Batteries Work?

A lead acid battery is a secondary wet cell battery that contains lead, lead oxide, plates and an electrolyte solution that contains a mixture of water and acid. The plates in this type of wet cell battery can be anodes that are attached to a negative battery terminal or cathodes attached to a positive battery terminal. To operate the battery a load is attached to the terminals and a chemical reaction between the electrolyte solution, lead, and lead oxide. The chemical reaction causes electricity to flow through the terminals to the load attached. Some of the acid in the battery remains on the plates as it flows through. When the battery is recharged the acid is returned to the liquid solution to provide more power later.

How long do Wet Cell Batteries Last?

After time, the bits of acid that have been bonded to the plates begins to flake off during normal use of the battery. This leaves less acid that can be transferred back to the electrolyte solution and results in the battery having less power. Heat, vibration and overcharging will also deplete the battery's power.