The AA battery (sometimes affectionately called "double-A"),
is the most common battery size. Every year, about 200 million are sold
in the UK alone!
The AA standard actually refers to the physical dimension of the battery:
cylindrical, measuring 1.988" (50mm) in height with a diameter of 0.571"
(14.5mm). Amongst battery professionals, the AA battery is also called an
Based on this physical standard, a large number of different AA batteries
have actually been developed. They differ in performance, electrical specification,
and suitability for various applications.
Zinc-Carbon AA batteries have been available for the longest amount of time.
They are least expensive, and work well in low drain applications, such
as portable radios or torches. They don't work well when the application
requires a lot of electricity quickly, because the chemicals in the battery
start deteriorating, with the result of the battery losing power. Low to
moderate drain applications allow the battery chemicals to recover, and
thus make for a reasonable life-span.
Alkaline AA batteries are the best general purpose AA battery available
today. They provide more power then Zinc-Carbon AA batteries, and also work
much better at lower temperatures. The cheapest alkaline AA battery comes
close to a Zinc-Carbon battery in price, but still exceeds it in performance.
A top-of-the-range alkaline AA battery, such as the Duracell Ultra M3 commands
a visible premium, but outlasts not just Zinc-Carbon AA batteries, but also
several other alkaline AA batteries by multiples.
More recently lithium AA batteries have emerged to power high drain devices,
such as digital cameras. They clearly outperform any alkaline AA battery
in such demanding electronic applications as digital photography, but this
extra performance is also visible in their price.
The most economical and environmentally friendly version of the AA battery
is the NiMH rechargeable AA battery. Recharging a set of NiMH AA rechargeables
costs only a small percentage of the price of alkaline AA batteries, and
when you've used them, you don't have to pile your used batteries into a
landfill, you simply recharge them. NiMH AA rechargeables also use less
dangerous materials than the previous generation of NiCd rechargeable batteries.
Rechargeable AA batteries are also typically rated at a voltage of 1.2V,
rather than the 1.5V nominal voltage of the pre-charged batteries. Because
of the difference in chemical process inside the battery however, the rechargeable
AA battery can still outperform an alkaline AA battery in many applications.
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