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CHAPTER 8

INTERNAL RESISTANCE

The resistance offered by a storage battery to the flow of a current through it results in a loss of voltage, and in heating. Its value should be as low as possible, and, in fact, it is almost negligible even I in small batteries, seldom rising above 0.05 ohm. On charge, it causes the charging voltage to be higher and 'on discharge causes a loss of voltage. Fig. 26 shows the variation in resistance.

The resistance as measured between the terminals of a cell is made up of several factors as follows:

1. Grids. This includes the resistance of the terminals, connecting links, -and the framework upon which the active materials are pasted. 'This is but a small part of the total resistance, and does not undergo any considerable change during charge -and discharge. It increases slightly as the temperature of the grids rises.

2. Electrolyte. This refers to the electrolyte between the plates, and varies with the amount of acid and with temperature. As mentioned in the preceding chapter, a mixture of acid and water in which the acid composes thirty per cent of the electrolyte has the minimum resistance. Diluting or increasing the concentration of the electrolyte will both cause an increase in resistance from the minimum I value. The explanation probably lies in the degree to which the acid is split up into "ions" of hydrogen (H), and sulphate (SO4). These "ions" carry the current through t he electrolyte. Starting with a certain amount of acid, let us see how the ionization progresses. With very concentrated acid, ionization does not take place, and hence, there are no ions to carry current. As we mix the acid with water, ionization occurs. The more water used, the more ions, and hence, the less the resistance, because the number of ions available to carry the current increases. The ionization in creases to a certain maximum degree, beyond which no more ions are formed. It is probable that an electrolyte containing thirty per cent of acid is at its maximum degree of ionization and hence its lowest resistance. If more water is now added, no more ions are formed. Furthermore, the number of ions per unit volume of electrolyte will now decrease on account of the increased amount of water. There Will therefore be fewer ions per unit volume to carry the current, and the resistance of the electrolyte increases.

With an electrolyte of a given concentration, an increase of temperature will cause a decrease in resistance. A decrease in temperature will, of' course, cause an increase in resistance. It is true, in general, that the resistance of the electrolyte is about half of the total resistance of the cell. The losses due to this resistance generally form only one per cent of the total losses, and area practically negligible factor.

3. Active Material. This includes the resistance of the active materials and the electrolyte in the pores of the active materials. This varies considerably during charge and discharge. It has been found that the resistance of the peroxide plate changes much more than that of the lead plate. The change in resistance of the positive plate is especially marked near the end of a discharge. The composition of the active material, and the contact between it and the grid affect the resistance considerably.

During charge, the current is sent into the cell from an external source. The girds therefore carry most of the current. The active material which first reacts with the acid is that near the surface of the plate, and the acid formed by the charging current mixes readily with the main body of electrolyte. Gradually, the charging action takes place in the inner portions of the plate, and concentrated acid is formed in the pores of the plate. As the sulphate is removed, however, the acid has little difficulty in mixing with the main body of electrolyte. The change in resistance on the charge is therefore not considerable.

During discharge, the chemical action also begins at the surface of the plates and gradually moves inward. In this case, however, sulphate is formed on the surface first, and it becomes increasingly difficult for the fresh acid from the electrolyte to diffuse into the plates so as to replace the acid which has been greatly diluted there by the discharge actions. There is therefore an increase in resistance because of the dilution of the acid at the point of activity. Unless a cell is discharged too far, however, the increase in resistance is small.

If a battery is allowed to stand idle for a long time it gradually discharges itself, as explained in Chapter 10. This is due to the formation of a tough coating of crystallized lead sulphate, which is practically an insulator. These crystals gradually cover and enclose the active material. The percentage change is not high, and generally amounts to a few per cent only. The chief damage caused by the excessive sulphation is therefore not an increase in resistance, but consists chiefly of making a poor contact between active material and grid, and of removing much of the active material from action by covering it.

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