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Having just discovered yet another device with battery damage, I thought I'd raise the subject of switching away from zinc-chloride and alkaline single use cells, to the newer style of low self discharge Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeable cells. They are sometimes called "ready to use" or "pre-charged" cells due to retaining a useful capacity even when stored before retail.
They won't work in all equipment due to their slightly lower cell voltage (1.2V vs 1.5V), but do work in most stuff, and are much less prone to leakage.
The science of alkaline cell leakage may be down to the natural formation of gas bubbles during normal discharge. That results in a gradual increase in internal pressure that may eventually force the corrosive electrolyte out through the seal. That could be during normal use of a new battery, or it could be a long term thing when batteries have been left in a piece of equipment.
Rechargeable cells like NiMh batteries do generate gas internally during charge, but self catalyse it back to liquid electrolyte internally. It usually takes serious overcharging to make them vent.
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While having a tidy up, i noticed that this meter was showing that lovely crystal outline around its battery compartment. That says, an alkaline battery has leaked and i opened it and i took the battery out that had leaked and there was electrolyte inside. I had to strip the meter apart and give it a good, thorough, clean out inside. But the meter is now fine, but actually running on nickel metal hydride cells instead of nickel instead of the alkaline or others, and it made me realize that alkaline batteries are actually more trouble than they're worth, because the main reason for using them in the past versus Things like nico metal hydride cells is that nick mesohydride cells used to have a fairly high self discharge.

So in applications like this, whenever you went to use it, the battery would be flat, but that's changed. They've now got the the cells that use a thicker separator inside and chemistry, tweak that lets them supply them pre-charged or, if you top them up, they will literally they'll last years without needing charged in an application like this, and i took a hunt around for some Older alkaline batteries that may have leaked it wasn't that hard to find them. This is an old out of date, duracell pro cell. That has just really leaked the point.

It's all burst its raffle off. Here's the matching standard, duracell again it's out of date, but it's leaked horribly and pushed electrolyte out then, and even if more recent kodak extra life's of dollar store, pound shop battery had leaked, and i looked into a bit and from what i can see. The problem is that, as the part of the chemistry of how these operate, they generate gas inside just the normal use with normal discharge and the pressure will gradually increase and the seal is supposed to keep that pressure in, but well over time. It just gradually seeps out, and you end up with leakage that doesn't really happen with nickel metal hydride swatch.

I mean i've come across. Nick metal hydride cells have grown a little bit fluff around them, but in most instances most of the problems i've found the past have been the nickel cadmium cells, which are kind of they're outdated. Now, they're not they're not allowed in consumer products. The nickel cadmium cells, because they've got cadmium in them and it's a shame in a sense because well, the nickel cadmium is a very robust battery.

It's still used in several situations, particularly military, medical and emergency lighting, because it's got a huge temperature tolerance range and it's also a very, very robust battery compared to nick metal hydride. But having said that, um, the point of this video is to say that maybe it's time to stop using alkaline batteries, i don't think they've got a place anymore. I can't think of any unique feature other than their slightly higher voltage and to be honest, if any electronic equipment it flags up 1.2 volts as being fully discharged, that's a bit of an issue with that design of that equipment. But i would say that a good step these days, a good direction to go, is to use the modern, nickel metal hydride cells, the even the for applications.

At this. It's not going to be a very high current draw. You could use the low capacity ones that are quite cheap, but the ones that specifically say low, self-discharge or ready to use pre-charged, because um there's a very good chance that just one alkaline cell feeling like this would potentially save cost in certain pieces of test equipment. Like fluke test lamps, for instance, i'm just thinking of all the fluke things and other stuff that have had battery leakages in them that just uh one little nickel metal hydride.

Even if you only used it once or twice would still save a lot more than the cost of using these rotten old alkaline batteries that are just prone to destroying electronic equipment.

12 thoughts on “The curse of leaky alkaline batteries”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Veraxis says:

    I have switched over to using NiMH for most applications, and a pack of those lithium primary AAs as a backup, or inside very low-drain devices like remotes or calculators. They are expensive compared to alkalines, but I agree they are worth the peace of mind that they won't leak inside electronics.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars YodaWhat says:

    Alkaline cells in standard consumer sizes used to be FAR less prone to leakage, but the major battery manufacturers downgraded the seals to INSURE LEAKAGE, because so many people had found out they could partially recharge their depleted alkaline cells, a handful of times. Bad for the profits of those Earth-unfriendly-disposable-society companies. There have even been a very few companies who produced alkaline cells touted as rechargeable alkaline, but they fall FAR short of the promised "hundreds of recharges."

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Glen Harris says:

    Had the same meter and the same leak. There's a hole in the inner battery compartment where the spring contacts go through and the liquid leaked onto the circuit board. I noticed because the continuity buzzer failed and found the corroded traces were everywhere. Way too much to repair, including destroyed vias and traces going under components.

    I bought a bigger brother to the 210 and the first thing I did was to take it apart and hot glue the exact same holes in the battery compartment. Hopefully that'll save me another $60…

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Scott's Synth Stuff says:

    NiCd batteries are still used in aircraft and helicopters with turbine engines. The NiCd batteries can supply the massive current required to crank the engine up to several thousand RPM so that they can light off once jet fuel is introduced. They are then recharged once the engine starts, and the starter is switched to generator mode.

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars katie_incredible says:

    Nothing worse than going to use a piece of equipment and finding that horrible gunk coming out of it. I have a (when new) VERY expensive network cable tester from Fluke that I needed for work the other day, and sure enough, it doesn't turn on, and oops, I left some Duracells in there.

    Fortunately like your clamp meter I was able to clean it up and get past it, but that hurt to see.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ranger Kevin says:

    For devices that sit around a lot but get used regularly (like Multimeters) I have switched to the Energizer Lithium primary cells. They are more expensive, but for those specific cases they last forever and have not leaked on me so far. For all other devices, the alkaline batteries get taken out and stored in little ziploc-bags next to them. If a device comes from the factory with "heavy duty" zinc-carbon batteries those go into the trash immediately.

    The lithium batteries alre also great for things like outdoor RF temperature sensors, as they don't crap out in lower temperatures.
    With the lithium AAAs the thing lasts over 2 years, with alkaline AAAs I loose connection and have to change out the battery after 9 Months.

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Dom Wright says:

    I still use alkalines in many things. I found some things, like the clocks I've got that self-set using the wireless signal tend to go badly wrong when the voltage drops below about 1.3V. Also I've got a few cheap bluetooth computer mice that take two AAs each and they start acting up when the voltage dips a bit. Other than that I love rechargeables. I use them in everything I can.

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Tapio Peltonen says:

    The one application I'm using alkaline cells for is a microchip reading cat flap, and for safety reasons I change the cells well before they run out of charge, so I have tons of partially used alkaline cells left over. The device really does not want to run on 4.8V or less (it has 4 AAs in series). I've been thinking about getting some of those 1.5V lithium ion AA replacements, but I'm still not sure which ones to go for.

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Corgitronics says:

    Yes, I have had similar experiences. For many things I now use Eneloop batteries, most of mine are about 6 years old and still going. For more serious stuff, like expensive multimeters, I have long been using Energizer Industrial batteries. So far none of the industrial batteries have leaked, and I have run some long, slow leakeage tests.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars IncertusetNescio says:

    Get yourself a nice charger for NiMH batteries and about double the number you need, and you're in business for anything that needs them. The spares are there for immediate need, and by the time you should need a fresh set, the previous ones have long been charged and put back in storage. They're actually pretty good these days for most uses. You can get high capacity or low self-discharge (they put lithium to shame on capacity/volume, but get shamed back on power out/in).
    I have a 4-Cell unit with per-cell management, discharge, discharge-refresh, charge, and a test function all in one, with cycle-through readouts for current, voltage, capacity, etc. When I get a dead cell I put it in and set it to discharge so I get a full cycle out of it and then it goes as normal. If I find an iffy one I discharge-refresh it and see if it's still good. Out of a set of two in a wireless handset, one was good, the other was dead. With a dumber charger I would not know that.

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars AussieRobear66 says:

    Classic.. What timing. Ive just started switching out Alkaline batteries for NiMH batteries in all my devices after discovering a leaking battery (caught it in time), that wasnt past its due date, and was purchased new not that long ago. Some devices complain of low battery, but the % they report never drops for a long time… I even replaced the Alkalines in my PinBall machine with them a year ago. Still going strong (one day, Ill do the memory mod so it doesnt need battery backup)…

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Furr Bear says:

    I have phased out alkalines to "disposable" applications where I don't want someone walking off with a rechargeable cell. Everything else is NiMH or LiFePO4 (3.2v per cell nominal) with spacers for the stuff that needs the higher voltage.

    Also – and this isn't a huge secret – IKEA's "LADDA" brand cells are rebadged Eneloops, sold much cheaper. 😉

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