Batteries are stores of energy created by the interaction of different elements at the atomic level. Since the first battery was invented in 1799 using only copper and zinc, researchers have harnessed many other elements, each with its unique properties, for use in batteries.
Some elements, like lithium and nickel, can be used to make many types of batteries. Others like, vanadium and cadmium, are, as of today, only used in one type of battery each. And the vast majority of elements, like the noble gases, don’t have the right chemical properties or, like silver and gold, are just too expensive to use in batteries.
In the periodic table below, we’ve briefly described the important battery types, including key historical examples, the most common forms used today, and the cutting-edge chemistries that could be game-changers in the future. Inside every battery, there are four components: two electrodes (anode and cathode), a separator (to prevent shorting), and an electrolyte (to move charges between the electrodes). For the periodic table, we focused on the elements that make up the cathode, the anode, and the “carrier,” the stuff that moves the charge between the electrodes (which is often something in the electrolyte).
To be sure, this is not an exhaustive list of batteries. We’re sure we’ve missed some battery types. If you’d like to help us build out our database or correct any mistakes, please fill in this form to send battery candidates.