BU-301a: Types of Battery Cells

Compare the pros and cons of the cylindrical cell, button cell, prismatic cell and pouch

As batteries were beginning to be mass-produced, the jar design changed to the cylindrical format. The large F cell for lanterns was introduced in 1896 and the D cell followed in 1898. With the need for smaller cells, the C cell followed in 1900, and the popular AA was introduced in 1907. See BU-301: Standardizing Batteries into Norms.

Cylindrical Cell

The cylindrical cell continues to be one of the most widely used packaging styles for primary and secondary batteries. The advantages are ease of manufacture and good mechanical stability. The tubular cylinder can withstand high internal pressures without deforming.

Most lithium and nickel-based cylindrical cells include a positive thermal coefficient (PTC) switch. When exposed to excessive current, the normally conductive polymer heats up and becomes resistive, acting as short circuit protection. Once the short is removed, the PTC cools down and returns to conductive state.

Most cylindrical cells also feature a pressure relief mechanism and the most simplistic design utilizes a membrane seal that ruptures under high pressure. Leakage and dry-out may occur after the membrane breaks. Re-sealable vents with a spring-loaded valve are the preferred design. Some Li-ion cells connect the pressure relief valve to an electrical fuse that opens the cell if an unsafe pressure builds up. Figure 1 shows a cross section of a cylindrical cell.

Typical applications for the cylindrical cell are power tools, medical instruments, laptops and e-bikes. To allow variations within a given size, manufacturers use fractural cell length, such as half and three-quarter formats.

Cross section of a lithium-ion cylindrical cell

Figure 1: Cross section of a

lithium-ion cylindrical cell

The cylindrical cell design has good cycling ability, offers a long calendar life, is economical but is heavy and has low packaging density due to space cavities.

Courtesy of Sanyo

Nickel-cadmium provided the largest variety of cell choices and some spilled over to nickel-metal-hydride, but not to lithium-ion as this chemistry established its own formats. The 18650 illustrated in Figure 2 remains one of the most popular cell packages. Typical applications are power tools, medical devices, laptops and e-bikes.

Popular 18650 lithium-ion cell

Figure 2: Popular 18650 lithium-ion cell

The metallic cylinder measure 18mm in diameter and 65mm the length. The larger 26650 cell measures 26mm in diameter. 

Courtesy of Cadex

In 2013, 2.55 billion 18650 cells were produced; earlier with 2.2Ah and now mostly with a capacity of 2.8Ah. Some newer 18650 Energy Cells are 3.1Ah and the capacity will grow to 3.4Ah by 2017. Cell manufacturers prepare for the 3.9Ah 18650, a format that they hope will be made available at the same cost as the lower capacity versions.

The 18650 is the most optimized cell and offers the lowest cost per Wh. As consumers move to the flat designs, the 18650 is peaking and there is over-production. Batteries may eventually be made with flat cells but experts say that the 18650 will continue to lead the market. Figure 3 shows the over-supply situation that has been corrected thanks to the demand of the Tesla electric vehicles.
 

Over Supply Figure 3: Demand and supply of the 18650.

The demand for the 18650 would have peaked in 2011 had it not been for Tesla. The switch to a flat-design in consumer products and larger format for the electric powertrain will eventually saturate the 18650.

Courtesy Avicenne Energy

The larger 26650 cell with a diameter of 26mm instead of 18mm did not gain the same popularity as the 18650. The 26650 is commonly used in load-leveling systems with Li iron phosphate.

Some lead acid systems also borrow the cylindrical design. Known as the Hawker Cyclone, this cell offers improved cell stability, higher discharge currents and better temperature stability compared to the conventional prismatic design. The Hawker Cyclone has its own format.

Even though the cylindrical cell does not fully utilize the space by creating air cavities on side-by-side placement, the 18650 has a higher energy density than a prismatic/pouch Li-ion cell. The 3Ah 18650 delivers 248Wh/kg, whereas a modern pouch cell has only 143Ah/kg. The higher energy density of the cylindrical cell compensates for its less ideal stacking characteristics. The empty space can be used for cooling to improve thermal management.

Cell disintegration cannot always be prevented but propagation can. Cylindrical cells are often spaced apart to stop propagation should one cell take off. Spacing also helps in the cooling. In addition, a cylindrical design does not change size. A 5mm prismatic cell, in comparison, can expand to 8mm with use and allowances must be made.
 

Button Cell

The button cell, also known as coin cell, enabled compact design in portable devices of the 1980s. Higher voltages were achieved by stacking the cells into a tube. Cordless telephones, medical devices and security wands at airports used these batteries.

Although small and inexpensive to build, the stacked button cell fell out of favor and gave way to more conventional battery formats. A drawback of the button cell is swelling if charged too rapidly. Button cells have no safety vent and can only be charged at a 10- to 16-hour charge; however, newer designs claim rapid charge capability.

Most button cells in use today are non-rechargeable and are found in medical implants, watches, hearing aids, car keys and memory backup. Figure 4 illustrates the button cells with accompanying cross section.
 

CAUTION Keep button cells to out of reach of children. Swallowing a cell can cause serious health problems. See BU-703 Health Concerns with Batteries.

 

Button cells

Button cells part 2

Figure 4: Button cells
Button cells, also known as coin cells, offer small size and ease of stacking but do not allow fast charging. Most commercial button cells are non-rechargeable.

Courtesy of Sanyo and Panasonic
 

Prismatic Cell

Introduced in the early 1990s, the modern prismatic cell satisfies the demand for thinner sizes. Wrapped in elegant packages resembling a box of chewing gum or a small chocolate bar, prismatic cells make optimal use of space by using the layered approach. Others designs are wound and flattened into a pseudo-prismatic jelly roll. These cells are predominantly found in mobile phones, tablets and low-profile laptops and range from 800mAh to 4,000mAh. No universal format exists and each manufacturer designs its own.

Prismatic cells are also available in large formats. Packaged in welded aluminum housings, the cells deliver capacities of 20 to 30Ah and are primarily used for electric powertrains in hybrid and electric vehicles. Figure 5 shows the prismatic cell.

Cross section of a prismatic cell

Figure 5: Cross section

of a prismatic cell

The prismatic cell improves space utilization and allows flexible design but it can be more expensive to manufacture, less efficient in thermal management and have a shorter cycle life than the cylindrical design.

Courtesy of Polystor Corporation

 

The prismatic cell requires a slightly thicker wall to compensate for decreased mechanical stability compared to the cylindrical design. Some swelling due to gas buildup is normal. Discontinue using the battery if the distortion presses against the battery compartment. Bulging batteries compromise safety and can damage equipment.
 

Pouch Cell

In 1995 the pouch cell surprised the battery world with a radical new design. Rather than using a metallic cylinder and glass-to-metal electrical feed-through, conductive foil-tabs are welded to the electrodes and brought to the outside in a fully sealed way. Figure 6 illustrates a pouch cell.

The pouch cell

Figure 6: The pouch cell

The pouch cell offers a simple, flexible and lightweight solution to battery design. Exposure to high humidity and hot temperature can shorten service life.

Courtesy of Cadex

The pouch cell makes the most efficient use of space and achieves a 90–95 percent packaging efficiency, the highest among battery packs. Eliminating the metal enclosure reduces weight but the cell needs some support in the battery compartment. The pouch pack finds applications in consumer, military and automotive applications. No standardized pouch cells exist; each manufacturer designs its own.

Pouch packs are commonly Li-polymer and serve well as Power Cells by delivery high current. The capacity is lower than Li-ion in the cylindrical package and the flat-cell may be less durable. Expect 8–10 percent swelling over 500 cycles and make provision in the battery compartment for expansion. It is best not to stack pouch cells on top of each other but to lay them flat side by side. Prevent sharp edges that can stress the pouch cells as they expand.

Extreme swelling is a concern. Users of pouch packs have reported up to three percent swelling incidents on a poor batch run. The pressure created can crack the battery cover and in some cases break the display and electronic circuit boards. Discontinue using an inflated battery and do not puncture the bloating cell in close proximity to heat or fire. The escaping gases can ignite. Figure 7 shows a swollen pouch cell.

Swelling pouch cell

 

Figure 7: Swelling pouch cell

Swelling can occur as part of gas generation. Battery manufacturers are at odds why this happens. A 5mm (0.2”) battery in a hard shell can grow to 8mm (0.3”), more in a foil package.

Courtesy of Cadex

Pouch cells are manufactured by adding a temporary “gasbag” on the side. During the first charge, gases escape into the gasbag, the gasbag is cut off and the pack is resealed as part of the finishing process. Subsequent charges should no longer produce gases. Ballooning indicates that the manufacturing process may have been flawed.

The prismatic and pouch cells have the potential for greater energy than the cylindrical format but the technology to produce large formats is not yet mature. The cost per kWh in the prismatic/pouch cell format is still higher than with the 18650 cell. As a comparison, the cost for the Nissan Leaf with Pouch/ Prismatic cells is $455/kWh; best practice (DoE/AABC) with this format is $350/kWh. The lowest price per kWh is the Tesla EV with the 18650 cells. Greenwich Strategy estimates the cost of the Tesla Gen III battery at $290/kWh. 
 

Summary

Rechargeable batteries are either flooded with the electrodes awash in electrolyte as in the lead acid, or cylindrical as in NiCd, NiMH and Li-ion. Along came the pouch cell, a format that is similar to packaging perishable food. Intended to be cheaper to manufacture and more flexible in form factor, refinements are needed to bring this amazing cell concept to the same performance level of the cylindrical version. In summary:

Figure 8 compares the price in $US/Wh of the cylindrical, prismatic and pouch cell, also known as the laminated. While the cylindrical cell has been most economical to manufacture, flat-cell designs are getting competitive and battery experts predict a shift towards these cell formats, especially if the performance criteria of the cylindrical cell can be met.

Price Li-ion Figure 8: Price of Li-ion ($US/Wh)

Decreasing manufacturing costs of prismatic and pouch formats (laminate) may one day be on par with the cylindrical format. Pricing involves the bare cells only.

Courtesy Avicenne Energy



Last Updated 2015-08-28


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Comments

On May 1, 2011 at 11:30am
Steve Arey wrote:

Can the prismatic pouch pack be recycled?
Do you sell these?
Thanks,

On September 26, 2011 at 9:35am
Bill wrote:

Do you know 2-3 most common pouch cell material suppliers?

On November 14, 2011 at 12:20pm
Frank John wrote:

Dear Sales,
We come across your email and we want to know if you can supply
us these items 12Volt 100Ah to 200Ah Sealed lead battery Battery
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or more * 12 months of complete warranty and 48 months of pro-rated warranty
* Non Hazardous battery.

Let us know if you can supply us within 5 business day for delivery.
And more also specify the type Credit cards you will be needed for the
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Your response is most important to us.

Thank you.

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Tallahassee,Florida 5530

On November 22, 2011 at 6:43am
tonyzhou wrote:

Dear friends,

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this is Tony from WaMa battery,our company manufacture battery (full capacity) and charger for 10 years.
wish to be able to service you

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Your OEM and ODM are available
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On December 20, 2011 at 10:36am
Donald Nelson wrote:

Good Day Sir/Ma…..Please i will like to know if you have 100 or 200Ah Sealed lead battery 12 Volt….Non Hazardous battery.

If so…Kindly Quote me the Price per battery

Donald Nelson
Donald Enterprise
3117 West-Side Dr
Durant Oklahoma
74701 USA

On February 2, 2012 at 12:17pm
Ming Lai wrote:

I have a dead NiCad battery pack of 6.2 volt, one of the cell is only showing 43mV while the other four shows 1.2 volt. it measures ~1.325"x0.9” for each cell. Would some body kindly tell me what size of NiCad battery that is? So that I can order a replacement pack??
Thanks. (Please send me email on this, thanks)

On March 15, 2012 at 12:42am
peter wrote:

Dear Sir,
Good day!
This is Peter from Changzhou Yufeng Electrical Co., Ltd which specialized in producing 3V lithium button-cell.

As to our company ,a brief introduction for your check.
1. Professional Li-MnO2 button cell battery manufacturer since 2000 in China.
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I enclosed our products spec,pls check it.
For more information,pls contact me directly.
Looking forward to your feedback.

Best regards
Peter
Changzhou Yu Feng Electrical Co.,Ltd.
www.henlimax.com
Email:[email protected]
Zhuxiashu Industrial Park, Xilin, Zhonglou District, Changzhou, Jiangsu,China
Tel: 0086-519-85019892/85019872
Fax: 0086-519-85019899 

On June 6, 2012 at 6:11pm
sunnyzeng wrote:

Dear,

we specialized in produce li-ion and liPo batteries. All required battery cells or battery packs are ok for us. If interested,please see my contact details as below:
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Tel:+86-769-81223229
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On June 6, 2012 at 6:16pm
sunnyzeng wrote:

by the way, our company website is
www.gybattery.com

On September 20, 2013 at 8:23pm
Sunny Hu wrote:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Here is Guangzhou TianQiu Enterprise Co., Ltd, producing and exporting batteries (D, C, AA, AAA, 9V heavy duty, alkaline, lithium button cell, Ni-Cd/MH rechargeable battery, etc.). We are agent manufacturer of Japan’s brand “MITSUBISHI” and our own brand “TIANQIU”- a top 10 most competitive battery brand in China, passed CE, SGS, ISO9001:2000 certificate.

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Sunny Hu
———————   
Guangzhou Tianqiu Enterprise Co., Ltd
Add:  9/F, TianQiu Building, No 16-30,He Yi Rd, SanYuan Li Ave,GuangZhou,China 510410
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Email: [email protected]
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On January 7, 2014 at 10:28am
Sagar Ganu wrote:

Please let know the standard formula used to calculate 9AH battery’s charging time.

On February 27, 2014 at 4:09am
harry potter wrote:

do you use skype? If yes we can also discuss there. -  It would be awsome if a discussion of e.g. batteries could be done between different scientist via skype or something else, so that everyone get soon help…
i just want to ask something about that battery and explain me how to make it in russia\
benelmokadem
harry potter movies in order

On February 27, 2014 at 4:10am
harry potter wrote:

do you use skype? If yes we can also discuss there. -  It would be awsome if a discussion of e.g. batteries could be done between different scientist via skype or something else, so that everyone get soon help…
i just want to ask something about that battery and explain me how to make it in russia\
benelmokadem
harry potter movies in order
thank you

On September 9, 2014 at 11:56pm
Mir wrote:

Sir
I am in need of battery with following specifications. If you can help me, i will be very much obliged.
1. 28v output voltage
2. minimum 6ah capacity
3. must be parallel/series combination of li-ion cells
4. weight<1000g
5. rechargeable
6. lifetime > 1.5 year
waiting for your reply !
thankyou!

On November 6, 2014 at 7:52am
Hassan Shabbir wrote:

Dear,
      I am Hassan Shabbir a Sales Engineer in a Germany. I am working for a company that develops, manufactures and sells Lithium ion batteries and Fuel cells. Our company offers the client specifically adapted solutions for the electricity supply of his products.
If someone interested than kindly contact me on my given address. I shall be very thankfull to you.

Best Regards:
Hassan Shabbir
Sales Engineer
BE-POWER GmbH, Germany
Email:[email protected]
Phone: +49 (0) 64 04 -2 05 15-23

On December 5, 2014 at 3:21pm
David R wrote:

Dear Mir,
GlobTek is a world class manufacturer of Li-Ion battery packs and chargers, including a large range of IEC62133, UL 1642 and 2054 certified solutions. We Manufacture battery packs for Medical, Telecom, and mobile device applications for worldwide Fortune 500 companies as well as small manufacturers. Please contact one of our offices nearest to your location. Our website is www.globtek.com

Thanks!

On January 17, 2015 at 5:45am
M.Mariasudagar wrote:

i like to know about batteries, because i do simulation work in ECE/POWER ELECTRONICS. Anybody provide a corresponding job for a nominal payment.

On March 31, 2015 at 8:31pm
waheed wrote:

we are lithium Manufacturer Please let me know if you need any type of lithium battery
www.yjbattery.com  
skype- waheed.z
[email protected]

On April 8, 2015 at 11:22pm
Robert Selph wrote:

Your estimate for Tesla’s price/kwh is way too high. Tesla’s price (at the cell level) is under $200/kwh, and probably more like $150 - $200/kwh. Here’s a report from Advanced Automotive batteries that estimates their cost at the cell level to be $180/kwh:

https://www.advancedautobat.com/industry-reports/2014-Tesla-report/Extract-from-the-Tesla-battery-report.pdf

Here’s an article from SAE International that estimates Tesla’s cost at under $160/kwh:

http://articles.sae.org/12833/

Here’s an article referencing an analyst at IEK who was saying 18650 costs were $120 - $200/kwh back in 2012:

http://news.cens.com/cens/html/en/news/news_inner_42230.html

In 2013, Tesla’s CTO J.B. Straubel said that the battery pack in the Tesla makes up “less than a quarter” of the cost of the car in most cases. Here’s a good article from InsideEVs that estimates that the cost at the pack level is $238/kwh. The Advanced Automotive Batteries report puts the cost at the cell level at 71% of the cost at the pack level (look at slide 28 in the report). 238 x 0.71 = $169/kwh.

Here’s the article from InsideEVs:

http://insideevs.com/tesla-battery-in-the-model-s-costs-less-than-a-quarter-of-the-car-in-most-cases/

And that’s CURRENT prices. The Gigafactory is going to decrease cost at the cell level by at least 30%, which means that the Gen III battery will cost $105 - $140/kwh.

Ask Greenwich strategy how they arrived at that estimate. Becauase it looks like they just took the price difference between the 60kwh Tesla and the 85kwh ($10,000 or $400/kwh) and reduced it by 30% to account for the Gigafactory. I hope you’re not paying them for these estimates.

On April 29, 2015 at 3:46pm
Andrew Input wrote:

What a great article, I wish i had this information sooner.

It is a time of scarce resources and environmental crisis, we should not be wasting Lithium batteries by parking them needlessly at 100% charge. Even if convenience is someones only concern - it is inconvenient to have a weak battery when you need it, and an inconvenience replacing it even if the price is trivial, and to most people it ain’t that is a fact! 

Better production standards should require that li-on charging schemes make the best use of our batteries. Phones and laptops can observe how a device is being used and set the top charge level more intelligently.

The data indicates li-on batteries will depreciate half as quickly when kept at 85% charge instead of the 100% standard. That is a huge saving already.

I found a key on my laptop which I hadn’t noticed before which stops it charging despite being plugged in. Now i am aware of this articles information, i will let it sit at lower charge rates, except when I might be able to use its full 7 hour capacity.

On May 3, 2015 at 8:59pm
Elphus Masete wrote:

WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF MANUFACTURING OUR OWN LEAD ACID BATTERIES, WE WOULD LIKE TO BRING YOU ONBOARD TO HELP US WITH THE DESIGN SERVICES.

On May 4, 2015 at 3:15am
Amin Saleem wrote:

Hello everyone

I wonder if someone can tell me where can i buy LR416 sized cell cases. Thanks in advance.

Regards,
Amin

On June 10, 2015 at 2:22am
Soren wrote:

Hi All,

Does anyone know the name of the manufacture of a new type of rechargable battery.
It´s a coin cell battery which is rechargeable but the special thing about it is it´s properties, as it discharges from approx 3.7V to 1.6V and acts differently at 1.6V.
To my knowledge there is only one supplier producing this type of battery, but I forgot which ?.

Hope someone can help.

Thanks in advance
Br Soren

On July 6, 2015 at 5:45am
Scott wrote:

Soren,

could you be referring to the coin power cells from Varta Microbattery?

Rechargeable Lithium coin with patented technology.

http://www.varta-microbattery.com/en/products/batteries-cells-configurations/technology/rechargeable/lithium-button-cells/all/technology-description.html

On August 27, 2015 at 6:01am
Paul Stubbs wrote:

Great website and I have learned a lot.

I use Lipo and Nimh’ s in RC flying and RC sailing and get nothing like 500 cycles from either.

After a fairly short time both seem to charge OK and seem to achieve 95-98 capacity but are not able to produce the power (voltage or current) similar to newer cells.

Is this due to build up of internal resistance and is this a product of incorrect charging or too rapid discharging..

I use an Imax Lipoly generic type charger set to Lipo or Nimh and always balance charge Lipo’s at around 1C.

Batteries are really cheap now and so I just buy new but it would be nice to know what I can do to make them last longer.