how do zinc carbon batteries work

Zinc-Carbon Battery Research II

Alright, so in the last post, there were a bajillion number of different renditions of how a handful of layers are placed in order.  Going from inside out, these were the different outcomes in a user-friendly graphical representation:

Some layers are missing all together or not referenced.  At the very least, all of them have two layers - the carbon rod and the zinc can.  Now, ignoring the nebulous electrolyte pastes and mixes and blahblah, the layers:

  • Carbon Rod
  • Manganese Dioxide/Carbon Powder
  • Paper/Fabric
  • Ammonium Chloride/Zinc Chloride Paste
  • Zinc Casing

So.  It seems that there’s no general consensus on how the layers are placed together though there are general principles from what I’ve researched:

  • The paper or separator prevents the carbon rod and manganese dioxide/carbon powder from touching the zinc can.
  • Manganese dioxide almost always surrounds the internal carbon rod.
  • The Ammonium Chloride/Zinc Chloride Paste is known as the electrolytic paste and as long as it’s also between the carbon rod and zinc can - it can be before the paper, after the paper, and even infused in the paper.

So for all intents and purposes I’ll work off of the following diagram and description:

The positive terminal of the battery is a carbon rod surrounded by a mix of manganese dioxide and carbon powder (usually graphite powder).  Then there is a separator layer which sits between this manganese layer and an electrolytic paste made of ammonium chloride or zinc chloride. Outside of that paste is the negative terminal of the battery, the shell of the battery, consisting of zinc chloride.

Finally we’ll get to how this battery works!