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All right, let's clear this up: What the hell is inside of a battery?

Really frustrating: I accidentally closed the tab I had been working on for about 15 minutes, so I'll probably be missing a couple of questions I had been meaning to ask.

So anyway: When I peel off the outermost metal covering of a zinc-carbon battery, I'm just taking away a protective steel covering, right? When I get rid of that, am I looking at the actual zinc "case?"

What is the sticky, black material that surrounds the graphite rod? Is that manganese dioxide? Is manganese dioxide the same thing manganese oxide?

Further outwards from the center of the battery, there is another black substance. Is this ammonium chloride?

I haven't actually chopped open a carbon-zinc battery all the way yet. Is there a good technique for removing all of the contents?

How can I tell the difference between the two black substances? Is the moist, black paste ammonium chloride? If this is so, then why, when I pull the graphite rod out of the battery, is it sometimes coated with a sticky, black substance? Do the substances mix with each other or are both substances sticky and black? Is one a powder?

Is it okay to drill through one end of the battery? If I drill into the negative terminal of the battery, what will fall out?

Basically, what are the physical properties of all the materials? How can I tell the difference between them?



Now: On to alkaline batteries...

Both types (carbon-zinc and alkaline) appear to use manganese dioxide. Is this so? On Wikipedia's article on alkaline batteries, manganese dioxide is described as Zn/MnO2, with the two as a sub-script. Does the slash mark mean that zinc and manganese dioxide are interchangeable?

What will I find if I open up an alkaline battery? Is it safe to do so? What is a good, safe way to open one up?



Are there any particular "fun" applications for these chemicals? Think explodiness ; )

I've heard that manganese dioxide can be used to produce oxygen. How do I do this?

There might be some yellow tag-box notes on these, pictures. For the context, visit my Instructable on how to make your own carbon arc light. I'm not trying to advertise, I'm just anticipating someone asking about them.

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frank2608011510 years ago
Do not EVER break open an alkaline battery without a FULL BODY PLASTIC SUIT, there's a corrosive liquid inside that is under a lot of pressure and it will squirt! That **** burns and stains

the manganese dioxide and hydrogen peroxide is the hot equivalent of dry ice and water, when manganese dioxide and hydrogen peroxide is mixed, the extra oxygen atom seperates from the H2O2 molecule, turning the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas, this will generate a lot of heat and gas, gas means pressure if it's contained in a bottle, and pressure means fun!

@frank26080115 I know you posted this six years ago, but some information in your comment is incorrect. The dissection of alkaline batteries does not warrant a "full body plastic suit". While there is a small amount of potassium hydroxide (alkaline) in the battery, it is not very concentrated, nor is it very dangerous. Good eye protection is advised, but other than that, in my experience, the KOH is only strong enough to cause paper cuts on my fingers to sting.

That was in my teenage years, I was only exaggerating.
haha TGell me about it that manganese dioxide crap got in ma eyes today! heres how it happened

While in Chemistry class today i experienced something really weird and painful!
i was setting up my laptop for chem class becuz my book is on here and well one of the experiments we were getting ready for was taking out the black stuff in a battery.. well my ex who was sitting in front of me didnt mean to do this and didnt expect this to happen but he was being stupid and tryign to open the top od the battery with a soda bottle opener my teacher has a her house.. btw im in a homeschool co op thing... anyways as i looked up i heard this loud PSSSSHHHHH noise and the next sec my eyes are burning like crazy! thank god it wasnt the acid but i think it was the Manganese dioxide that got in ma eyes but OMG it hurt like shiizzzz lol but yah becarefule and ALWAYS ALWAYS wear safety goggles no one in ma class and not even me like i said thank god it wasnt anything serious!
carbon (author)  frank2608011510 years ago
See, but you aren't speaking from personal experience. I asked because I want to what's really in there, and how dangerous it is. This Instructable on electrolysis is what confused me. In the comments, ferrocious posted a picture of a dissected battery. From what I understand, he took apart an alkaline battery. He didn't find any liquid KOH, assuming it was absorbed into the surrounding materials.
ThatCatMan4 years ago
Just simply, Is it safe to open a Zinc-Carbon battery?
ericgrau8 years ago
Those drawings are labeled wrong. Check this out:
http://www.energizer.com/learning-center/Pages/how-batteries-work.aspx

They recommend against cutting open a battery because of the risk of personal injury. But, like other dangerous devices, explosives, etc. it could be done with great caution and safety precautions. Expect the inside to react violently as soon as you cut it. The chemicals will be hot and poisonous and the fumes are not good to breathe.
Boy do i know that!
this is what happened ot me today

While in Chemistry class today i experienced something really weird and painful!
i was setting up my laptop for chem class becuz my book is on here and well one of the experiments we were getting ready for was taking out the black stuff in a battery.. well my ex who was sitting in front of me didnt mean to do this and didnt expect this to happen but he was being stupid and tryign to open the top od the battery with a soda bottle opener my teacher has a her house.. btw im in a homeschool co op thing... anyways as i looked up i heard this loud PSSSSHHHHH noise and the next sec my eyes are burning like crazy! thank god it wasnt the acid but i think it was the Manganese dioxide that got in ma eyes but OMG it hurt like shiizzzz lol but yah becarefule and ALWAYS ALWAYS wear safety goggles no one in ma class and not even me like i said thank god it wasnt anything serious!
Clover226 years ago
While in Chemistry class today i experienced something really weird and painful!
i was setting up my laptop for chem class becuz my book is on here and well one of the experiments we were getting ready for was taking out the black stuff in a battery.. well my ex who was sitting in front of me didnt mean to do this and didnt expect this to happen but he was being stupid and tryign to open the top od the battery with a soda bottle opener my teacher has a her house.. btw im in a homeschool co op thing... anyways as i looked up i heard this loud PSSSSHHHHH noise and the next sec my eyes are burning like crazy! thank god it wasnt the acid but i think it was the Manganese dioxide that got in ma eyes but OMG it hurt like shiizzzz lol but yah becarefule and ALWAYS ALWAYS wear safety goggles no one in ma class and not even me like i said thank god it wasnt anything serious!
westfw10 years ago
Ammonium chloride is a while soluble solid. The black paste-like substance between the carbon rod and the zinc case has the manganese dioxide, Ammonium chloride, and some carbon black all mixed up, I think. I didn't think there were two different "black gunks", but I could be wrong (wikipedia says there are, and the only cells I've taken apart have been pretty much "dead.") The construction a practical battery seems significantly different than a theoretical battery :-( Zinc has assorted uses; I've made soldering flux starting with a dead battery, and you can use it to generate hydrogen (or make other types of battery.) Carbon rods have many uses as electrodes of various sorts (not just for electric arcs.) Manganese dioxide is used as a catalyst with hydrogen peroxide to produce oxygen, and it catalyzes a bunch of other reactions as well. (however, NOTE CAREFULLY that in battery is is mixed with carbon. One of the "classic" preparations of oxygen involves heating MnO2 with potassium chlorate or perchlorate. Use carbon-contaminated MnO2 for that, and you'll get an explosion (um "deflagration") instead, as the carbon burns "vigorously" with the oxidizer. I don't think it's practical to extract the ammonium chloride from batteries, but ammonium chloride is used in some better-than-average white smoke compositions.
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