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Difference Between Zinc and Alkaline

Zinc vs Alkaline

Zinc and alkaline are two types of batteries, although their names is sort of a misnomer since even alkaline batteries have zinc in their composition. What separated alkaline batteries is the type of electrolyte it used. Most Zinc batteries used an acidic electrolyte composed of ammonium chloride while alkaline batteries use potassium hydroxide, which is a basic electrolyte.

The difference between these two types of batteries that would directly impact the ordinary user is battery capacity. Although zinc chloride batteries have a higher capacity compared to the older zinc carbon battery, the capacity of alkaline batteries is many folds over the capacity of both types of zinc batteries. This instantly translates to longer time periods before needing to replace the batteries on your device.

In terms of the construction of the batteries themselves, zinc and alkaline batteries have one major difference. In zinc batteries the metal body of the battery is made out of zinc and serves as the anode of the battery. With alkaline batteries, the metal body serves only as a case to house the internal components. The zinc anode of alkaline batteries is kept in powder form within the body.

The usage of zinc as the body of the battery in zinc batteries has two major drawbacks caused by the fact that the zinc would eventually degrade over time. The first drawback is shelf life. While an alkaline battery can last for as long as 7 years, zinc batteries can only last anywhere between 1 to 3 years before becoming unusable. The zinc casing is slowly being eaten away by the acidic electrolyte that is contained inside.

Another downside is the high probability of leaks. Since the zinc body is part of the reaction that generates the electricity, it is gradually consumed while the battery is being used. Certain areas of the battery body may become very thin and prone to punctures. In certain instances, holes would just appear in the body and cause the leaks.

Although it is still possible to have leaks with alkaline batteries, these are often caused by misuse rather than normal usage.


1. A zinc battery uses an acidic electrolyte while an alkaline battery uses a basic electrolyte

2. Alkaline batteries have much higher capacities compared to zinc batteries

3. The can is the anode of the zinc battery while alkaline batteries uses a zinc powder within the can

4. Alkaline batteries have a longer shelf life compared to zinc batteries

5. Zinc batteries are prone to leaks while alkaline batteries are not

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  1. I wanted to know the difference between Zinc and Alkaline electric cells. You have answered my question admirably – many thanks

  2. Excellent article! My daughter used it for her Science Fair project!

  3. alkine and zinc which one last longer when in use

  4. First saw a carbon-zinc battery in a Big Box Store along with the others, and had no idea what it meant. The price (of course) was lower for the c-z but I thought I’d better wait to find out. How easy it was on this site, with this article. Most excellent! All I would add would be the price differences as part of the pros and cons, and perhaps examples of the type of device each battery would be best suited for. Although it sounds like c-z batteries are just a ploy to sell cheap junk.

  5. Hello,
    I would like to point out that there is a misconception as regards to “alkaline does not leak”. They do leak if kept in the device for extended period of time. I had an expensive Maglite destroyed by leaking a major brand alkaline batteries but I was lucky to get a full refund from the manufacturer following a complaint.
    So, my advice is to never leave alkaline batteries in an unused or not so often used device. Remove them and keep in a ziplock bag to maintain charge.
    Btw: In this day & age zinc carbon should be phased out.

  6. There is another key difference between these battery types. The zinc AA batteries for example, weigh only about a half of the AA alkaline cells, making them most suitable when light weight is desired.

  7. Zinc Chloride batteries are great for LED flashlights cause they last for hours and hours because the LED bulbs use very little I energy.

    • I have musical clocks & it says I should use non alkaline batteries. Those are not available in our area. Could I use some other kind of battery to take the place of a non alkaline battery. Thanks

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