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, stopping current flow and acting as short circuit protection. Once the short is removed, the PTC cools down and returns to the conductive state.

Most cylindrical cells also feature a pressure relief mechanism, and the simplest 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 permanently opens the cell if an unsafe pressure builds up. Figure 1 shows a cross section of a cylindrical cell.
 

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 and is economical, but is heavy and has low packaging density due to space cavities.

Source: Sanyo


Typical applications for the cylindrical cell are power tools, medical instruments, laptops and e-bikes. To allow variations within a given size, manufacturers use partial cell lengths, such as half and three-quarter formats, and nickel-cadmium provides the largest variety of cell choices. 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 for the 18650 Li-ion 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. Early Energy Cells had 2.2Ah; this was replaced with the 2.8Ah cell. The new cells are now 3.1Ah with an increase to 3.4Ah by 2017. Cell manufacturers are preparing for the 3.9Ah 18650.

The 18650 could well be the most optimized cell; it offers one of the lowest costs per Wh and has good reliability records. As consumers move to the flat designs in smart phones and tablets, the demand for the 18650 is fading and Figure 3 shows the over-supply that is being corrected thanks to the demand of the Tesla electric vehicles that also uses this cell format for now.
 

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.

Source: Avicenne Energy


The larger 26650 cell with a diameter of 26mm does not enjoy the same popularity as the 18650. The 26650 is commonly used in load-leveling systems. A thicker cell is said to be harder to build than a thinner one. Making the cell longer is preferred.

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 about 140Ah/kg. The higher energy density of the cylindrical cell compensates for its less ideal stacking abilities and the empty space can always 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 thermal management. In addition, a cylindrical design does not change size. In comparison, a 5mm prismatic cell 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 a 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 provides small size, most are primary for single-cell use.

Source: 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. Other designs are wound and flattened into a pseudo-prismatic jelly roll. These cells are predominantly found in mobile phones, tablets and low-profile laptops ranging 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 20–50Ah 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. Allow for some swelling.

Source: Polystor Energy Corporation

 


The prismatic cell requires a firm enclosure to achieve compression. Some swelling due to gas buildup is normal, and growth allowance must be made; a 5mm (0.2”) cell can grow to 8mm (0.3”) after 500 cycles.   Discontinue using the battery if the distortion presses against the battery compartment. Bulging batteries can damage equipment and compromise safety.
 

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 were 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, but it needs support and allowance to expand.

Courtesy of Cadex


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

Pouch packs are commonly Li-polymer. Small cells are popular for portable applications requiring high load currents, such as drones and hobby gadgets. The larger cells in the 40Ah range serve in energy storage systems (ESS) because fewer cells simplify the battery design.

Although easily stackable, provision must be made for swelling. While smaller pouch packs can grow 8–10 percent over 500 cycles, large cells may expand to that size in 5,000 cycles. It is best not to stack pouch cells on top of each other but to lay them flat, side by side or allow extra space in between them. Avoid sharp edges that can stress the pouch cells as they expand.

Extreme swelling is a concern. Users of pouch packs have reported up to 3 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: Swolling pouch cell.
Swelling can occur due to gassing, but improvements are being made with newer designs. Large pouch cells have reduced swelling.

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 most often hints to a flawed batch.

The technology has matured and prismatic and pouch cells have the potential for greater capacity than the cylindrical format. Large flat packs serve electric powertrains and Energy Storage System (ESS) with good results. The cost per kWh in the prismatic/pouch cell is still higher than with the 18650 cell but this is changing. Figure 8 compares the price of the cylindrical, prismatic and pouch cells, also known as laminated. Flat-cell designs are getting price competitive and battery experts predict a shift towards these cell formats, especially if the same performance criteria of the cylindrical cell can be met.
 

Price Li-ion Figure 8: Price of Li-ion ($US/Wh).
Historically, the manufacturing costs of prismatic and pouch formats (laminate) were higher, but they have converged. Pricing involves the bare cells only.

Source: Avicenne Energy


Summary

With the pouch cell, the manufacturer is attempting to simplify cell manufacturing by replicating the packaging of food. Each format has pros and cons as summarized below.

Last Updated 2016-05-04

 

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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
Specifications * Voltage: 12 Volt * Capacity Ampere Hours:100 (@20hr rate) *
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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
payment .

Your response is most important to us.

Thank you.

Frank John
0943 W. Tennessee Street
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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CR123A RCR123A
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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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4.We have got Certificate of RoHS,UL,UN 38.3 for our products.

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:peter@czyufeng.com
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:
ZHUZHOUGAOYUAN BATTERY CO., LTD.
Tel:+86-769-81223229
Fax:+86-769-81233208
SKYPE:sunnyzeng110
MSN:sunnyzeng2011@hotmail.

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,

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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
Web: www.gztianqiu.com
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Tel:+86-20-3632 2277 ex 239
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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:hshabbir@be-power.de
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
waheed@yjbattery.com

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.