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What Are the Various Types of Aircraft Batteries?

With a great amount of advancements made to aircraft hardware parts, more and more systems are beginning to rely on electricity for their functions. From aircraft small to large, the aircraft battery proves to be an indispensable asset for initiating the powering of the electrical system and other electronic aircraft parts. There are many different types of batteries designed for aircraft, and each have their advantages and disadvantages for the applications that they serve. In this blog, we will discuss the uses of aircraft batteries, as well as some of the common types found within aircraft electrical systems.

The aircraft battery serves many uses for aircraft functions, primarily during start-up operations. Batteries are used to start the auxiliary power unit (APU), provide emergency power as needed, establish ground power, clear faults, and much more. Once systems are powered, the APU or generator then acts as an aircraft battery charger while it takes over the powering of electrical aircraft hardware parts.

Typically, smaller aircraft utilize lead acid batteries, while larger commercial aircraft may feature nickel cadmium batteries (NiCd). While these are the two main types of batteries, there are other available types such as valve-regulated lead acid batteries (VRLA) and lithium polymer cells. The lead acid battery is comprised of cells that have a lead oxide anode and a lead cathode that has been soaked in a sulfuric acid electrolyte solution. Lead acid batteries provide substantial storage of energy and power provision batteries, but they suffer from low energy density and heavy weight. Lead batteries also occasionally vent hydrogen gas which is highly combustible.

NiCd batteries are comprised of a metallic casing that contain connected sets of cells. These types of batteries feature ventilation systems, allowing the NiCd battery to discharge gases during overheating to allow for cooling. NiCd cells feature a cadmium hydroxide anode, as well as a nickel hydroxide cathode that is doused in a potassium, sodium, and lithium hydroxide electrolyte solution. The benefits of NiCd batteries are their ability to vent heat and the presence of a fault protection system. NiCd battery operating temperature must be very well maintained, however, as excess temperatures can cause thermal runaway which can result in a chemical fire or explosion.

Batteries such as the lithium polymer cell are useful for applications where lightweight batteries are desired, such as aircraft that are controlled via radio. Lithium polymer cells also feature the ability of being rechargeable. VRLA batteries follow the same electrochemical reactions as lead acid batteries, though there is a gas recombination mechanism that functions to mitigate the formation of hydrogen at the negative plates. VRLA batteries also do not lose water during their charging.

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June 6, 2016

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