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Journal of Mi nerals & Materials Characteriza tion & Engineering, Vol. 11, No.6, pp.641-651, 2012
jmmce.org Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Characterization of Spent Household Zinc-Carbon Dry Cell
Batteries in the Process of Recovery of Value Metals
Majharul Haque Khan and A.S.W Kurny*
Materials and Metallurgical Engineering Department, Bangladesh University of Engineering
and Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh
*Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spent zinc-carbon dry cell batteries were characterized to assess the environmental impacts
and also, to identify the potentials of recovering the metal values from these batteries. Different
component parts of both new and spent batteries of all the five types (AAA, AA, C, D and 9V)
were examined. The outer steel casings were found to be tin plated. Steel, zinc and manganese
constituted 63 percent of the total weight of the battery. Average zinc and manganese contents
were about 22 and 24 percent of the total weight of spent batteries. The electrolyte paste of the
spent batteries contained 22 wt. percent zinc and 60 wt. percent manganese. The rest was
chlorine, carbon and small amounts of iron and other impurity elements. The major phases in
the fresh batteries were carbon, MnO2 and NH4Cl, while Zn(NH3)2Cl2, ZnO.Mn2O3, Mn3O4 and
Mn2O3 were the prominent phases in the spent batteries. Presence of mercury and cadmium
were not detected and a small percentage of lead was found in both the zinc anod e and in the
Keywords: Zinc-carbon battery, Characterization, Spent batteries, Waste management
Zinc-carbon dry cell batteries are widely used in different household applications like toys,
radios, recorders, watches, remote controls, cameras, torches etc. These batteries are not
rechargeable and are discarded when discharged. Household batteries are, at present, disposed
(along with other household solid waste) in municipal solid waste (MSW) and are sent to a
landfill or, in some countries, to a municipal waste combustion facility. When disposed in a
land fill, the elements of the spent batteries can undergo natural leaching, seep into the ground
water, change the water’s pH and contaminate it . The incineration of batteries also poses
two major potential environmental concerns. The first is the release of metals (Zn, Pb and Hg,
642 Majharul Haque Khan and A.S.W Kurny Vol.11, No.6
if present) into the ambient air and the second is the concentration of metals in the ashes that
must be landfill. The stabilization process on the other hand is a costly process .
Zinc-carbon batteries and alkaline dry cell batteries are the most used types of batteries and
constitute approximately 80% of waste dry-cell battery stream . In the recent past mercury
and cadmium along with lead were the main hazardous components in a zinc-carbon battery. In
recent years mercury and cadmium are not used in zinc-carbon and alkaline manganese
batteries . However, a small amount of lead is still being used in these batteries.
Ever increasing demand for metals is causing a rapid depletion of the primary metal sources
(ores). Extraction of metals from the secondary sources requires less energy, helps preserve
natural resources and reduces environmental pollution due to the production processes.
Increasing attention is now being focused on the secondary sources and considerable
progresses have been made towards the recovery of metal values from various secondary
sources that include wastes. Spent dry cell batteries contain significant quantities of useful
metals that can be technically extracted and reused . At the same time, the development of a
suitable method for the recovery of value metals from spent dry cell batteries can decrease the
amount of wastes to be disposed and thus reduce the disposal and treatment problems.
Detailed information on the exact nature and content of metal values and other component
parts are useful for the development of a suitable process for the disposal or the utilization of
the spent dry cell batteries. This study focuses on the determination of the nature and amount of
the different metals in all the commercial types of zinc-carbon batteries so that a suitable
process for the extraction of all metal values could be developed.
Samples of spent batteries of all the five commercially available types of zinc carbon dry cell
batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V) were collected from different sources: houses, student
residential halls, and local scrap shops as well as from the streets through the street children.
A wide range of the zinc carbon dry cell battery brands like Sunlight, Motoma, DQ power,
Imperial, Brave, Haque Imperial, Olympic, Olympic gold, Sony, Sony super, National Hyper,
Panasonic Hyper, Li Feng, New leader, Everlast, Pako and Standard were found during the
collection. The samples, irrespective of the brands, were divided into the different types.
Some batteries were too badly damaged for physical separation of the components and were
discarded. For the C type batteries, only National Hyper and Panasonic Hyper brand batteries
could be collected. Some new batteries of each of the five types were bought to compare with
the spent ones.
The samples were dismantled manually and the different component parts were carefully
separated and weighed. The weight proportions of the different components (casing, paste,
etc.) of ten samples in each type of both new and spent battery were estimated. The proportions
of the different components reported in this presentation are the average of the values
determined on ten samples. The compositions of the electrolyte paste in both new and spent dry
Vol.11, No.6 Characterization of Spent Household Zinc-Carbon 643
cell batteries were determined by Rigaku X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy machine,
and the phases present in the paste were identified by X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis. The
XRD pattern was recorded in Panalytical X-Pert diffractometer using Cu Kα (λ=1.54056 Ao)
The amount of zinc oxide in the anode was estimated by chemical analysis . Around 5g of
the anode zinc of both the new and the spent battery were first dissolved in ammoniacal
ammonium chloride (Muspratt) solution under constant stirring for one hour at 500C. Zinc
oxide of the anode dissolves in this solution while the metallic zinc portion remains
undissolved. EDTA complexometric analysis with Erichrome black T indicator was done to
determine the zinc content in the solution, which consequently gave the estimation of zinc
oxide in anode.
For the determination of moisture content, a 20g sample of the electrolyte paste was heated in
an oven at 1100C to a constant weight. The difference in weight of the as received and the
dried sample was used to determine the moisture content of the electrolyte paste.
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
3.1. Identification of the Structural Components
Samples of dry cell batteries (both new and spent) were dismantled manually and the
different parts were identified. A dismantled C type battery with its different component parts
is shown in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1: A dismantled C-type zinc-carbon dry cell battery
644 Majharul Haque Khan and A.S.W Kurny Vol.11, No.6
The steel plate in the battery was found to be tin-plated. This finding agrees well with the
results obtained by others . The existence of tin in the steel was detected by X-ray
fluorescence (XRF) analysis (Table 1).
Table 1: XRF analysis of steel casing of a D type new zinc carbon battery
Elements Na Si S Cl Cr Mn
Fe Ni Cu Sn
Wt % 0.0738 0.038 0.014 0.025 0.0343 0.355
98.71 0.035 0.056 0.652
3.2. Estimation of Zinc and Zinc Oxide on Anode
In the new and spent batteries, zinc oxide was found to be 7.65% and 58.34% respectively of
the total weight of anode. The amount of zinc oxide is clearly more in the spent batteries and
this may be attributed to the oxidation of the anode during discharging reactions in the
battery. Moreover, wide variation in the amount of zinc oxide was observed due to the
different condition of the batteries when discarded.
3.3. Moisture Content Determination
The moisture content in the electrolyte paste of the spent batteries, as determined by heating
to constant weight, was found to be 12.32%. This value agrees well with the results (11.2%)
obtained by other investigators .
3.4 Estimation of Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen in Electrolyte Paste
Carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen were determined in EuroEA Elemental Analyzer. In each case
three samples of electrolyte paste was analysed and the results presented are the average
values. Both the new and spent batteries were analyzed and the total amount of carbon,
hydrogen and nitrogen in both the types were almost identical. Ammonium chloride
dissociation is a spontaneous reaction in presence of water. The analysis was done on a dry
basis. The evaporation of moisture and the dissociation of ammonium chloride in presence of
atmospheric moisture might have yielded the same total amounts in both the new and spent
batteries. The analysis result is shown in Table 2.
Table 2: Elemental analysis for the determination of C, H and N (On dry basis)
New types (AA type) Spent types
No. C% H% N% Total No. C% H% N% Total
1 4.135 0.4175 0.598
1 4.248 0.458 0.681
2 3.913 0.38 0.587 2 5.004 0.391 0.724
3 5.038 0.485 0.758 3 4.369 0.384 0.555
Average 4.362 0.428 0.648 Average 4.370 0.411 0.653
Vol.11, No.6 Characterization of Spent Household Zinc-Carbon 645
3.4. Weight Percentage Analysis
Table 3 gives a comparison of the weight proportions of different component parts in spent
and new batteries. A variation in the proportions of zinc anode and the electrolyte paste in the
new and spent zinc carbon dry cell batteries were noted. This may be attributed to the gradual
corrosion of the anode zinc which move to the electrolyte paste during the discharge of the
batteries and consequently, change the proportion. However, no significant variations in the
proportions of the carbon electrode or of the other parts of the new and the spent batteries
could be detected.
Table 3: Wt. % comparison of different component parts in five type new and spent batteries
Components AAA type AA type C type D type 9V type
(%) Sp ent
Whole battery 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Steel casing - - 17.83 17.47 13.97 14.00 11.73 11.08 16.79 16.65
Polyethylene 1.39 1.48 1.21 1.08 0.90 0.88 0.48 0.69 1.30 1.30
Zinc casing 34.44 29.44 22.14 16.98 17.19 15.54 16.68 13.69 8.32 6.45
Upper steel plate (1) 1.28 1.16 1.27 1.26 1.87 1.93 1.40 1.43 7.60 6.50
Upper steel plate (2) - - - - - - 0.25 0.34 - -
Lower steel plate 1.53 1.54 1.04 1.23 1.48 1.57 1.31 1.17 - -
Cardboard paper 4.72 4.70 9.83 9.66 3.29 2.67 6.12 6.01 12.47* 12.52*
Sealing rings 1.83 1.607 0.11 0.08 - -
Electrolyte paste 45.56 47.65 39.97 42.97 53.55 54.68 54.76 59.24 52.01 55.56
Carbon electrode 7.64 7.46 6.10 6.12 5.55 5.51 5.71 5.54 - -
Loss 3.44 6.57 0.63 3.22 0.37 1.613 1.46 0.71 1.51 1.023
3.5. Characterization of the Anode
Table 4: XRF analysis of the new and spent D type battery anode
No Component Result
New anode Spent anode
1 Mg 0.0548 0.0647
2 Al 0.0991 0.212
3 Si 0.263 0.391
4 P 0.0232 0.118
5 S 0.0252 0.0393
6 Cl 1.01 2.17
7 K 0.0439 0.0507
8 Ca 0.0659 0.0785
9 Mn 0.0352 0.0626
10 Fe 0.0353 0.114
11 Ni 0.0066 0.0070
12 Cu 0.0102 -
13 Zn 98.0 96.2
14 Pb 0.363 0.459
646 Majharul Haque Khan and A.S.W Kurny Vol.11, No.6
The composition of the zinc anode, as determined by the x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis,
is given in Table 4. In the dry cell batteries high purity zinc (purity over 99%) is used as
anode material . In a new and spent D-type battery, the purity was found generally 98%
and 96.2%. Correction to exclude chlorine that comes from the electrolyte paste and silicon,
which is an extraneous impurity, gives the purity figures as 99.27% and 98.76% respectively.
Fig: 2(a): XRD pattern of the new D-type battery anode
Fig: 2(b): XRD pattern of the spent D-type battery anode Fig: 2(c): XRD pattern of spent AA-type battery anode
A small amount of iron was detected in the spent anodes which come as a contaminant from
the steel casing of the battery. A small amount of lead was also detected. However, no
cadmium or mercury was detected in the anode. These elements were added in the past to
improve the corrosion resistance of the anode as well as to improve the formability of anode
zinc [6, 9]. Environmental regulations have obliged the battery manufacturers to exclude
mercury and cadmium.
X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns of the anodes of different type batteries are shown in Fig. 2.
X-ray diffraction pattern of a new D-type anode [Fig. 2(a)] showed only Zn and ZnO as the
Vol.11, No.6 Characterization of Spent Household Zinc-Carbon 647
major phases on it. The most intense diffraction line of zinc and zinc oxide was found to be at
almost the same angle and it was difficult to distinguish them. However metallic zinc should
be expected to be predominant in new battery anodes. The results of chemical analysis, as
presented previously, are in good agreement with this observation.
The most intense peak for zinc occurred at 36.26060 and for zinc oxide at 36.43450. The spent
anode of a D-type battery [Fig. 2(b)] showed Zn, ZnO and Zn(NH3)2Cl2 as the major phases.
The presence of Zn(NH3)2Cl2 could not be detected in the x-ray diffraction patterns of spent
AA type battery anode [Fig. 2(c)]. The presence of Zn(NH3)2Cl2 phase in the D-type battery
electrolyte paste might be due to the presence of ammonium chloride in the electrolyte paste
of the D-type batteries.
Table 5: XRF analysis of the electrolyte paste in different types of dry cell batteries*
No Elements AAA (wt %) AA (wt %) C (wt %) D (wt %) 9V (wt %) All
New Spent New Spent New Spent New Spent New Spent
1 Mg 0.0730 0.168 0.0242 0.0762 0.163 0.0618 0.139 0.0663 0.103 0.0760 0.0648
2 Al 0.0876 3.31 0.0303 0.137 0.417 1.28 2.14 2.11 0.284 0.115 0.25
3 Si 0.261 5.77 0.161 0.108 1.79 2.17 1.95 1.35 0.566 0.293 0.15
4 P 0.007 0.198 0.0122 0.0103 0.0358 0.0687 0.0835 0.0667 0.0276 0.0137 0.0638
5 S 0.327 0.163 0.230 0.283 0.230 0.0409 0.0254 0.0230 0.281 0.284 0.157
6 Cl 20.5 19.4 19.5 13.1 22.9 16.3 26.6 22.0 19.1 21.0 14.44
7 K 0.0869 0.723 0.108 0.149 0.338 0.596 0.900 0.786 0.120 0.0844 0.481
8 Ca 0.208 0.654 0.132 0.232 0.529 0.197 0.730 0.495 0.452 0.170 0.569
9 Ti - 0.101 - - - 0.0400 0.0658 0.0684 - - 0.0383
10 V - 0.0226 - - - - - - - - -
11 Cr 0.0386 0.0369 1.23 0.0368 - 0.0765 - - 0.0237 0.0922 0.275
12 Mn 65.3 47.9 58.2 60.9 56.9 41.6 54.6 60.2 58.2 64.2 60.1
13 Fe 0.715 8.59 7.52 0.353 1.76 2.91 2.13 1.97 0.666 0.713 1.14
14 Co - 0.0394 - - - 0.0444 0.0853 0.0918 - - 0.0522
15 Ni 0.0175 0.137 0.0651 - 0.0134 0.0342 0.0718 0.0454 0.0159 0.0155 0.0626
16 Cu - 0.0393 - - - 0.0249 0.0344 0.0454 - - 0.0259
17 Zn 12.4 12.7 12.7 24.7 14.8 34.4 10.2 10.4 20.2 12.9 22.07
18 As - 0.0190 - - 0.0091 - - - - - -
19 Sr - 0.0580 - - 0.0112 0.0206 0.0228 0.0148 - - 0.0179
20 Y - 0.0070 - - - - - - - - -
21 Zr - 0.0045 - - - - 0.0032 0.0024 - - 0.0025
22 Ba - - - - 0.112 - 0.121 0.128 - - -
23 Pb - - - - - 0.163 - 0.0335 0.0566 - 0.0400
The analysis was done on dry basis and excluding the carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen content, as those elements
can not be detected in XRF analysis
648 Majharul Haque Khan and A.S.W Kurny Vol.11, No.6
3.6. Characterization of the Electrolyte Paste
The percentages of various elements in the electrolyte paste of different types of zinc carbon
batteries (both new and spent) are shown in Table 5. Zinc and manganese were the main
metallic values in the electrolyte paste of both new and spent batteries. Chlorine was around
20 wt. percent and a very small percentage of lead was detected in some types.
The variation in composition may be ascribed to the difference in condition of the batteries
when discarded and also to the variation in composition of electrolyte used by different
manufacturers. The zinc and manganese contents of the spent batteries were seen to be more
than in the new ones. This may be due to the dissociation of ammonium chloride in the spent
batteries that consequently increased the metallic portions in these batteries. Higher zinc
content in the electrolyte paste of the spent batteries could be due to the discharge reactions.
A larger portion of the electrolyte paste than that of the anode was contaminated by iron.
Carbon and MnO2 were found to be the major phases in the AAA, AA and C type new
batteries [Fig.3(a)]. Carbon was found in several forms, i.e., graphite carbon, hexagonal
carbon and cliftonite. Similarly, MnO2 was found in several crystalline forms, like akhtensite,
pyrolusite, ramsdelite, manganese black and manganese oxide. At least seven different types
of MnO2, representing several crystalline forms are known to exist . NH4Cl phase was
predominant and clearly identified in the 9V and D-type new batteries of sunlight brand [Fig.
3(b)]. However, NH4Cl phase could not be detected in the other three types of batteries due to
the predominance of ZnCl2 in such cells [6, 11].
In the spent batteries, ZnO.Mn2O3, Mn2O3 and Mn3O4 were the major phases (Fig. 4). This is
in good agreement with the results obtained by other investigators . Other probable phases
present in those batteries were MnO(OH),NH4Cl, Fe2O3 and FeOCl. Iron contamination in
the spent batteries comes from the oxidized outer steel part. The inter mixing of the steel
casing and the electrolyte paste after a prolonged discharge time might occurred through the
damaged layer of the zinc anode. Also, during dismantling, some outer oxidized steel parts
would have mixed with the electrolyte paste.
Fig. 3(a): XRD patterns of the AA, AA and C type new batteries
Vol.11, No.6 Characterization of Spent Household Zinc-Carbon 649
Fig. 3(b): XRD patterns of the D and 9V type new batteries
Fig. 4: XRD patterns of all the five type spent batteries
3.7. Total Metal Values
The average values of metal contents of the whole battery (both new and spent types) are
given in Table 6 and Table 7 respectively. Small variations in the weight percentage of the
elements were observed in the new and spent batteries. This may be attributed to the
650 Majharul Haque Khan and A.S.W Kurny Vol.11, No.6
variations in the amounts of non-metallic elements caused by probable ammonia dissociation
in the spent types and also, to the variation in composition used by different manufacturers.
Zinc and manganese contents were about 22 and 24 percent of the total weight of the battery
in both the new and spent types. Steel parts constituted around 17 percent of the total weight.
The carbon rod, chlorine, plastics, wax or asphalt and other minor elements constituted the
remaining part of the batteries.
Table 6: Average metal wt. percentage in the new type Zn-C dry cell batteries *
New batteries Total value metals
Zn % Total
AAA 7.20 2.48 3.28 0.337 1.776 0.202 2.81 39.13 24.67
AA 17.39 3.85 6.9507 0.732 3.353 3.5 20.13 26.35 19.28
C 48.68 8.37 26.07 3.199 12.298 8.43 17.32 23.77 25.26
D 90.036 15.015 49.30 3.711 19.864 13.22
14.68 20.80 22.06
9V 37.76 3.14 19.64 3.289 9.477 9.21 24.39 17.03 25.10
Average 17.19 21.94 23.26
Table 7: Average metal wt. percentage in the spent Zn-C dry cell batteries*
Spent batteries Total value metals
Zn % Total
AAA 7.2246 2.1266 3.44 0.363 1.368 0.1976 2.74 34.46 18.94
AA 17.7028 3.0056 7.607 1.558 3.841 3.5352 19.97 25.78 21.70
C 48.536 7.5405 26.538 7.57 9.153 8.4954
17.50 31.13 18.86
D 91.692 12.557 54.32 4.217 24.408 12.86
14.03 18.29 26.62
9V 36.53 2.578 20.297 2.167 10.782 8.394
22.98 12.99 29.52
Average 16.60 21.66 24.57
Total metal wt. % values have been determined on as received battery, thus including the moisture content of the paste.
The characterization of zinc-carbon batteries yielded the following results:
1. No mercury or cadmium was detected in the new and spent zinc-carbon type batteries.
2. Carbon was found to be around 4.5 wt. percent of the electrolyte paste in the spent
Vol.11, No.6 Characterization of Spent Household Zinc-Carbon 651
3. Anode zinc was found over 99 percent pure with a very small percentage of lead in it.
4. ZnO was found to be the predominant phase in the anode of the spent battery.
5. In the electrolyte of the spent batteries, ZnO.Mn2O3, Mn3O4 and Mn2O3 were the main
6. Zinc and manganese content were 46wt. percent of the total battery. Addition of steel
parts to this analysis yielded a total metal values about 63wt. percent.
The authors are grateful to Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)
and Institute of Mining, Mineralogy and Metallurgy (IMMM) for providing the facilities for
this study and to Mr. Rezaul Karim for his help in the XRF analysis.
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