Inside Look at How Batteries Work (Infographic)
Typical batteries are powered by a chemical reaction.
Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

A dry cell battery releases electricity though a chemical reaction that takes place between the zinc alloy outer can (the anode) and an electrolyte paste inside the battery (the cathode.) 

A porous cardboard separator keeps cathode and anode apart. The electricity is conducted through a carbon rod in the center of the battery.

When a circuit is closed, current flows through the battery. It can move in either direction, depending upon circuit design and conductive material.

A rechargeable battery is also powered by a chemical reaction between the cathode and anode. In a rechargeable battery, the chemical reaction is reversible, so that the battery can be recharged as well as be drained of energy.

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