In the 1700 and 1800s, battery cells were encased in large glass jars. Later, multi-cell batteries were developed using wooden containers treated with a sealant to prevent electrolyte leakage. With the need for portability, the cylindrical cell was developed. The sealed cylindrical cells became common after World War II.
Continued downsizing called for smaller and more compact cell design and in the 1980s the button cell appeared. The early 1990s brought the prismatic cell, which was followed by the modern pouch cell. We are now examining the strength and limitation of each packaging system.

The cylindrical cell

The cylindrical cell continues to be the most widely used packaging. It is easy to manufacture, offers high energy density and provides good mechanical stability. The cylinder has the ability to withstand high internal pressures. Typical applications are wireless communication, mobile computing, biomedical instruments, power tools and applications that do not demand ultra-small size.

Most nickel cadmium systems come in cylindrical cells. Other chemistries also make use of the cylindrical design. The 18650 is among the most popular lithium-ion cells ('18' denotes the diameter and '650' the length in millimeters). Lead-based systems are also available in cylindrical design of which the Cyclone by Hawker is the most common.

Cylindrical cells are equipped with a resealable venting mechanism to release pressure under extreme conditions such as excessive overcharge. nickel-based cells can sustain a pressure of about 13.5 Bar or 200 pounds per square inch (psi). Venting occurs between 10-13.5 Bar or 150-200 psi.

The drawback of the cylindrical cell is poor space utilization. Because of fixed cell size, a battery pack must be designed around available cell sizes.

The button cell
The button cell was developed to reduce packs size and improve stacking. Non-rechargeable cells and are found in watches, hearing aids and memory backup.

The rechargeable button cells are mostly nickel-based and are found in older cordless telephones, biomedical devices and industrial instruments. Although inexpensive to manufacture, the main drawback is charge times of 10-16 hour and swelling if charged too rapidly. New designs claim faster charge capabilities. Button cells have no safety vent.

The prismatic cell
The prismatic cell was developed in the early 1990 to response to consumer demand for thinner geometry. Prismatic cells are commonly reserved for the lithium battery family. The polymer version is exclusively prismatic.

The prismatic cell comes in various sizes with capacities from 400mAh to 2000mAh and higher. No standard cell size exists; rather, prismatic cells are custom-made for cell phones and other high volume items.

The negative attributes of the prismatic cell are slightly lower energy densities and higher manufacturing costs than the cylindrical cell. In addition, the prismatic cell does not provide the same mechanical stability enjoyed by the cylindrical cell.
Prismatic cells have no venting system. To prevent bulging on pressure build up, heavier gauge metal is used for the container. Some degree of bulging must be considered in equipment design.

The pouch cell
The introduction of the pouch cell in 1995 made a profound advancement in cell design. Rather than using expensive metallic enclosures and glass-to-metal electrical feed-troughs, a heat-sealable foil is used. The electrical contacts consist of conductive foil tabs that are welded to the electrode and sealed to the pouch material.

The pouch cell concept allow