As aircraft utilize more electrical systems as technology continues to develop, their reliance on electricity from power sources is becoming ever more important. Aircraft batteries are implemented in aircraft of all types, providing for ground power, emergency power, fault clearing, and more. Depending on the aircraft and its needs, various types of aircraft battery may be installed. In general, the two most common aircraft battery types are the lead acid battery and NiCd battery.
1. Lead Acid Batteries
Lead acid batteries, also referred to as wet or flooded batteries, are dry charged cell aircraft batteries that are often present in small private aircraft. To begin the service life of a lead acid battery, an electrolyte is added to the battery once it has been assembled, charged, and dried. Lead acid batteries typically feature either 6 or 12 lead-acid cells that are connected in a series. The voltage of a six cell lead acid battery is 12 volts, while a 12 cell battery is 24 volts. When such flooded batteries are on charge, oxygen begins to be produced at the positive plates in which the battery was mounted, and then starts to escape from the cell. This results in water loss of the aircraft battery, as well as the gassing of cells. To remedy this, flooded cells require regular replacement of water to ensure that they operate efficiently and smoothly.
2. NiCd Batteries
NiCd batteries (nickel-cadmium) are the most common to commercial and corporate aircraft. NiCd battery construction typically consists of a metallic box made from either stainless steel, painted steel, titanium, or plastic coated steel. Within this box, individual cells are placed in series and are either 12 or 24 volts. To connect cells together, conductive nickel copper links are used, and cells are assembled in place with partitions, liners, spacers, and covers. The NiCd battery is normally a vented cell type, and a ventilation system assists the aircraft battery in exhausting gases that are produced during overcharge. With ventilation, the battery may also be cooled when operating at normal levels. Vented cells are beneficial to such aircraft batteries, as they permit oxygen and hydrogen gases to escape during overcharging, protecting them from damage because of overcharge, discharge, or negative charge. To further protect the battery, a fault protection system is put in place to ensure that overheating, low temperatures, cell imbalance, open circuits, and short circuits are detected and handled in a timely manner.
3. Valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (VRLA) Batteries
Valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (VRLA) are another lead acid battery type that serves as a somewhat new entry to the aircraft battery market, and they contain electrolyte absorbed in glass mat separators. Often referred to as sealed batteries, the VRLA battery follows the electrochemical reactions of a standard lead-acid battery, mostly differing with its use of a gas recombination system. When the battery is on charge, oxygen combines with the negative plate lead when there is a presence of H2SO4. This causes lead sulfate and water to form, mitigating the production of hydrogen and leading to no water loss. VRLA batteries are most often used on turbine powered aircraft and those belonging to general aviation, and they may be authorized as a placement for NiCd batteries.
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