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Modeling Electron Movement in a Rechargeable Battery Mark as Favorite (0 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Electricity, Cathode, Anode, Electrons, Electrolytic Cells. Last updated April 17, 2024.


In this activity, students will model the electron movement in a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is found in a cellphone. This model will include understanding the mechanisms of charging and discharging.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS3-2: Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motions of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative positions of particles (objects).
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
    • Developing and Using Models


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Draw a model illustrating how a rechargeable battery works.
  • Apply electrochemistry vocabulary to a real world example.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Electrochemistry
  • Electricity
  • Electrolytic Cells
  • Electrons
  • Anode
  • Cathode
  • Batteries


Teacher Preparation: 20 minutes
Lesson: 45 minutes


  • Student handout
  • Device with Internet access


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This activity was created to support the celebration of Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW), and the 2024 theme, “Batteries: Get a Charge out of Chemistry”.
  • It is important that students have a basic understanding of electrochemistry before doing this activity. Familiarity with battery diagrams beforehand would be helpful also. Teachers may want to use the AACT Galvanic Cell simulation as a supplement.
  • Depending on student ability level, this activity may require differing amounts of teacher support. It may be helpful to provide the directions and assign students to work in groups so the teacher can circulate and provide guidance as needed.
  • For the success of this activity, consider creating groups intentionally. You will want to pair up students who are good at working independently with those who need more support. This activity is most successful with at least one independent learner, one person who is willing to help, and one student who may need more support per group.
  • Pending ability level, consider drawing the movement of lithium ions together as a class and only requiring students to draw the movement of electrons. This will simplify the process and help students connect the diagram to other electrochemical cells they have modeled.
  • The half-reactions are written with the electrons on the corresponding side of the reaction to help students determine which will oxidize, and which will reduce. This will help students complete question 1 on the student handout, label the anode and cathode.
  • Some information is left off to simplify the activity, but is listed in the next bullet point. If students ask questions, feel free to share any of this information.
    • As the reaction happens, the lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode.
    • There is a semi-permeable membrane that will allow the lithium ions through, but not the CoO2 or C6 in solution. This prevents the two from reacting.
    • The lithium ions layer between the sheets of CoO2 or C6 and balance the charges and facilitate the flow of electrons.
    • The battery also has an aluminum collector at the cathode and a copper collector at the cathode. These aid in holding electrons and distributing them.
    • The colors on the diagram correspond with the copper and aluminum.
  • The image used on the student handout is available in the Public Domain, through Wikimedia Commons.
  • When answering question 6 on the student handout, students will find that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) website has statistics to help.
  • An Answer Key document is available for teacher reference.

For the Student


During this activity, you will label a diagram to model how an electronic device (such as your cellphone) uses a rechargeable battery.


In an electrochemical cell, electricity is generated by the flow of electrons from the anode to the cathode. As this process continues to occur, the amount of matter at the anode is slowly reduced as the metal atoms lose electrons and become ions in solution. When the anode runs out of material, the battery will stop generating a flow of electrons. In a rechargeable battery, the electron flow can be reversed to allow the battery to be used again. To do this, the electrons are forced from the cathode back to the anode.

Battery Model

Tasks and Questions

  1. On the model above, label the anode and cathode. Use the reactions included to help.
  2. Label the direction of electron flow in the battery when the device is in use.
  3. Brainstorm how electrons can be “forced” in the opposite direction to recharge the battery. Record ideas below:
  4. On the model below, draw the recharging process and write a 3-4 sentence summary of what happens in an electrochemical cell when a battery is recharging.
  5. Using a different color, indicate the flow of lithium ions in the discharging cell and the recharging cell.
  1. Making Connections: One theme of Chemists Celebrate Earth Week is sustainable energy sources. Research alternate types of energy used in your city or town. What are some ways you could make your phone recharging (and other energy usage) more sustainable?