Tech & Business

Dry Cell Batteries and the Form Factor Question

If you head on over to the Pale Blue Earth website, you will discover the company sells USB rechargeable batteries in multiple form factors. They have AAA, AA, 9V, and D Cell batteries. In fact, they are on the verge of launching a brand-new AAA model with a significantly higher capacity.

So many form factors might confuse you. Perhaps you wonder why battery manufacturers don’t make just one size and leave it at that. It turns out that it is not really up to them. Battery form factors are actually determined by the manufacturers who make things like flashlights and remote controls.

Multiple Sizes and Shapes

Pale Blue Earth’s USB rechargeable batteries are lithium-ion batteries. You may or may not know that lithium-ion batteries come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Just take a look around your home and it should be evident. Start with your cell phone.

Some cell phones come with removable batteries. Others have hardwired batteries. In every case, a cell phone battery is thin and rectangular. Why? Because it has to fit the size and shape of the phone. Phone manufactures have decided they do not want bigger and bulkier cases.

Remote Control Units

If you are like most people, you have at least several remote controls hanging around at home. You might have one for the TV and another for the sound system. The size and shape of each unit determines its battery form factor. In most cases you are looking at AA or AAA batteries.

Strangely enough, fewer and fewer devices utilize A batteries these days. For whatever reason, product manufacturers have shown a preference for AA and AAA form factors in recent years.

Other Household Devices

A perusal of your home might reveal that the majority of your batteries are either AA or AAA. But maybe you have a few devices that use other sizes. For example, consider the D cell. It is a popular size for larger flashlights. It used to be the premier form factor for all sorts of devices ranging from children’s toys to electric hand tools.

The D cell is the largest of the dry cell batteries intended for consumer electronics. Its slightly smaller cousin is the C cell. Very few devices use C batteries these days. The form factor is considered outdated and really unnecessary. Nonetheless, this writer has a clock that runs on C batteries. Yet I cannot remember the last time I had to purchase batteries for that clock.

Last but not least is the 9V battery. It is a rectangular battery with anode and cathode on the same edge, rather than being at opposite ends. It used to be the form factor of choice for transistor radios, portable cassette players, and similar devices. Even today, some manufacturers prefer the 9 V form factor.

Potential for New Form Factors

The form factors mentioned in this post are the most common among dry cell consumer batteries. Is there potential for new form factors down the road? Absolutely. To illustrate, we return to the cell phone. As cell phone sizes have become more static in recent years, they have required fewer form factor differences. We could eventually get to a point at which phone manufacturers decide to standardize their battery needs.

It is the size and shape of our electronic devices that determine battery form factor. As manufacturers figure out how to pack more energy into smaller batteries, the need for so many form factors should decrease. One day we could end up with just one or two for every electronic device we own.

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