How Are Batteries Made?

the alkaline battery has powered our

toys torches and gadgets for over half a

century we run down 15 billion of these

portable power units a year and meeting

demand calls for chemical engineering on

a colossal scale so how do they do it

our shot winner of a competition to find

the smartest place in flowers

and with all those bright sparks it's

the ideal spot for one of Europe's

largest battery factories

this towering powerhouse produces

millions of batteries a day Alessandro

Volta invented the battery in 1800 and

the fundamentals have barely changed

modern alkaline batteries produce

electricity when two electrodes immersed

in an alkaline electrolyte solution

react together the neat thing is this

only happens when we put them in a

device and switch it on completing a

circuit triggers the chemical reaction

between the electrodes releasing a

stream of electrons that leave the

battery creating an electrical currents

the first problem is delivering that

power to your gadget the solution is a


but not just any male this current

collector is the heart of the battery

market cuts four-centimeter lengths from

a 40 kilometer roll of brass wire

brass is a good conductor because of its

high copper content but the brass could

still be contaminated with tiny amounts

of oil and dirt so Marc tumbles the wire

in sand until it's spotless Marc may

have hit the nail on the head but it's

down to a capping machine to fit the

head on the nail Welding a nickel-plated

steel cap on everyone

however without cool chemistry these

brass nails are no more use than their

steel namesakes

they need power

and that starts with the anode which is

made from sink because this metal easily

releases electrons two truckloads of the

silvery stuff arrive every day the

trouble is it comes in ingots which are

a bit big for your remote control to

break the sink down to size a robotic

arm feeds the 25 kilogram ingots into an

electric furnace then a conveyor adds

top-secret performance enhancers

next a special silo spins the molten

zinc into powder which is added to a gel

so it's ready for the battery

the next problem is that the two

electrodes in a battery mustn't come

into direct contact with each other the

solution is to contain the sink with a

roll of laminated paper called the

separator as Pierre explains his little

paper separators don't start off so



every battery needs a positive - its

negative and that comes in the form of a

second electrode made from manganese

dioxide manganese dioxide is great at

collecting the electrons released by the

zinc but on its own it isn't a great

conductor so they mix it with graphite

it takes a six-story building with a

vast network of vibrating sibs and silos

to produce the manganese dioxide

graphite powder and compress it into

battery friendly pellets which they feed

into nickel-plated steel battery cans

before a cool magnetic conveyor carries

them off for assembly an assault course

of vibrating bowls and conveyors sorts

the other components ferries them to the

final assembly station where a monster

machine line roars into action

it's one of spins duties to keep the

Beast fed as the cans join the line a

machine in the separator

followed by a small amount of alkaline

electrolyte solution the conveyor then

snakes to allow time for the liquid

electrolyte to settle nozzles add the

zinc gel and with the current collecting

nail in place a high speed capping

machine seals every battery the

lightning-fast line assembles millions

every day