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Leclanché Cells


Primary cell with a nominal open circuit voltage of 1.5 Volts produced in very high volumes.

Chemistry based on a zinc anode and a cathode/depolariser of manganese dioxide which absorbs the liberated hydrogen bubbles which would otherwise insulate the electrode from the electrolyte. It uses a carbon rod as the cathode current collector with an electrolyte of ammonium chloride. Its variants have been in use for over a century. The performance of Leclanché cells improved by 700% between 1920 and 1990.

Also referred to as Zinc- Carbon Cells or Dry Cells (not to be confused with Solid State Cells) despite having an aqueous electrolyte since in modern cells the electrolyte of ammonium chloride and zinc chloride is produced in gel form or held in porous separators to reduce potential leakage if the cell becomes punctured.

Variants include

  • Zinc carbon (Carbon cathode)
  • Zinc chloride (Ammonium chloride electrolyte replaced by zinc chloride)
  • Alkaline manganese ( Ammonium chloride electrode replaced by potassium hydroxide)

See separate page for Alkaline batteries.



Inexpensive materials

Low cost

Available in a wide range of sizes including AAA, AA, C, D and 9Volt sizes.

Suitable for a wide range of consumer applications

Interchangeable with alkaline batteries



Propensity to leak

The basic zinc carbon battery has a lower energy density than the competing alkaline batteries

Poor low temperature performance. Do not function well in sub-zero temperatures.

The use of naturally occurring manganese dioxide from different sources can lead to wide performance variations due to the presence of small quantities of impurities such as nickel, copper, arsenic, and cobalt.

Not rechargeable



General purpose, low cost applications


Remote controls



Consumer applications

Losing market share to alkaline cells and newer technologies



Lowest cost primary batteries


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Cell Chemistry Comparison Chart








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