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. 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 and laptops. 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.

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. The cylindrical concept lends itself better to stop propagation should one cell take off than is possible with the prismatic/pouch design. In addition, a cylindrical design does not change size whereas the prismatic/pouch will grow. A 5mm prismatic can expand to 8mm with use. In spite of the apparent advantages of the cylindrical design, advances are made with the pouch cell and experts predict a shift to this flat format.

Button Cell

The button cell, also known as coin cell, satisfied the requirement of 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. A cautionary note applies to button cells to keep out of reach of children as swallowing can cause serious health problems. See BU-703: Heath 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 may be wound and flattened into a pseudo-prismatic jelly. 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 becomes so large that it presses against the battery compartment. Bulging batteries 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 some swelling; 8–10 percent over 500 cycles is normal. Provision must be made 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 as they expand.

Extreme swelling is a concern but battery manufacturers insist that these batteries do not generate excess gases. Most swelling can be blamed on improper manufacturing. 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. Manufacturers say that an inflated cell is safe. Discontinue using the battery and do not puncture it 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 including 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 not be fully understood. Manual labor may also contribute the cause.

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 is still higher than the 18650. As a comparison, the cost for the Nissan Leaf with Pouch/Prismatic cells is $455/kWh and best practice (DoE/AABC) with pouch/prismatic is $350/kWh. The lowest price per kWh is the Tesla EV with the 18650 cells. The Tesla Gen III battery goes for $290/kWh (Estimations by Greenwich Strategy).

Last Updated 2/11/2015

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

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

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
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Thank you.

Frank John
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Tallahassee,Florida 5530

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

Dear friends,

I owe your name to network resourse,from which we learnt that you might need battery and charger.
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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18650 battery series
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Button battery(AG,CR,SR)
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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.
2. With over 30 million batteries produced per month and 18 most advanced production lines here, we have taken up 1/3 of the domestic market.
3.We have more than 8 years experience serving abroad customers in North America and Europe.
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
Changzhou Yu Feng Electrical Co.,Ltd.
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:


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:

On June 6, 2012 at 6:16pm
sunnyzeng wrote:

by the way, our company website is

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.

Looking forward to working with you.

Best wishes,
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
Email: sales7@gztianqiu.com
Tel:+86-20-3632 2277 ex 239
Mobile: +86-136 3210 1612

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\
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\
harry potter movies in order
thank you

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

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 !

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

      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
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


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.