Alkaline vs Lithium Batteries: Which Are Best For Coin Cell?

Date Posted:3 October 2017 

Coin cell batteries (also called button cell or watch batteries) are small, disc-shaped batteries that were developed as a power source enclosed in a very small, light package for use in small devices and electronic equipment limited by space. They are single-cell batteries designed for very specific usage in small devices.

The benefit of coin cell batteries is that they typically last very long, and hold a charge for an extended period if not used. Devices designed for use with coin cell batteries are usually designed with a very low power draw, enabling a single battery to last for months or even years of use. With a low self-discharge rate, these batteries will not die quickly if left unused, making them practical for use in devices like hearing aids, remote controls, wristwatches, calculators, or other small electronic machines.

Coin cell batteries have been developed with a range of different chemical compositions, making them useful for different applications. One of the most common types is the alkaline battery. In addition, other battery types include lithium, silver oxide, and zinc-air batteries. We’ll take a look at the two most common, alkaline and lithium batteries. What are the differences between the two, and which are right for your application?

Alkaline batteries

Alkaline batteries are one of the most affordable coin cell batteries, but they trade this cost efficiency for a lower power output and a lower lifetime of use. These function based upon the reaction between the elements of zinc and manganese dioxide. An alkaline battery is called this because of the electrolyte used to conduct within the cell, an alkaline chemical called potassium hydroxide. Other batteries use an acidic electrolyte, either ammonium chloride or zinc chloride. Alkaline batteries can be rechargeable, unlike lithium batteries, although it’s usually difficult to find a coin cell battery that can be recharged.

As a coin cell battery, the benefit of alkaline batteries is their affordability. They are usually available at a much lower price point than lithium batteries.

Lithium batteries

Lithium batteries have lithium as an anode. They are more expensive than alkaline batteries, but last longer, provide more power, and are generally of better quality. Lithium batteries typically produce more voltage than the equivalent alkaline battery, so care must be taken when upgrading batteries in a device that the required voltage is not exceeded.

One of the benefits of a lithium battery is they are much more resistant to temperature variations than alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries can see reduced performance, or even cease to work at all, at extreme temperatures of either very hot or very cold. Lithium batteries are more flexible in regards to temperature and will continue to function.

Lithium batteries are also much lighter than the equivalent alkaline battery. This is important for small devices that rely upon small size and weight for their convenience.

However, the downside of lithium batteries is that they are usually more expensive than alkaline batteries. The importance of cost depends upon the end use, and if the battery lasts longer than an alkaline it could pay for itself over the life of the product.

In addition to one-time-use coin cells, which are meant to be disposed of after use, there are rechargeable coin cell batteries which can be used for continuous replacement if needed. Usually, the typical use for a rechargeable coin cell or button cell battery is as a backup for equipment that is usually powered by the electrical grid. In these cases, often the batteries are soldered in so that they are continually kept at charge.

So What Do You Need?

Your battery purchase depends upon the intended use of the battery. If you’re needing a quick replacement without need for longevity, an alkaline battery would be the best bet. But if you’re wanting a quality, long-term replacement which will last long in your device, as well as offer some of the other benefits like a better temperature tolerance and a light weight, then a lithium battery would be a much better alternative.

We have an extensive range of batteries in coin cell and button cell configuration ready for purchase. We’d encourage you to check out the entire range to find the exact one you need. We have them in lithium and in alkaline options.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions about batteries and our wholesale offerings!


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