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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
Electric Battery
by Alessandro Volta in 1800.

ELECTRIC BATTERY
AT A GLANCE:
Alessandro Volta, Italian physicist, known for his pioneering work in electricity. Volta was born in  Italy and educated in the public schools there. By 1800 he had developed the so-called voltaic pile, a forerunner of the electric battery, which produced a steady stream of electricity. In recognition of his work in the field of electricity, the electrical unit known as the volt was named in his honor.
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
BOOKS
WEB SITES
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: electric battery in 1800
Volta called his battery the Voltaic Pile. He stacked alternating layers of zinc, cardboard soaked in salt water and silver, image courtesy BBC Rough Science
Function: noun / electric bat·tery
Definition: In science and technology, a battery is a device that stores energy and makes it available in an electrical form. A battery converts chemical energy into electric energy. It is a connected bunch (or “battery”) of electro-chemical devices.
Inventor: Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta
Alessandro Volta image courtesy www.chemie.uni-bremen.de/stohrer/biograph/volta.htm
Criteria: First to invent.
Birth: February 18, 1745.in Como, Lombardy, Italy
Death: March 5, 1827.in Como, Lombardy, Italy
Nationality: Italian
Milestones:
1650 German physicist Otto von Guericke experimented with generating electricity
1729 The English physicist Stephen Gray discovered electrical conductivity
1752 Ben Franklin studied the properties of electricity by conducting his kite flying experiment
1780 Luigi Galvani erroneously discovers "animal electricity"
1794
Alessandro Volta believes that a chemical interaction causes electricity
1800
Alessandro Volta developed the so-called voltaic pile, a forerunner of the electric battery
1813 Sir Humphry Davy deduced that electrolysis was the action that produced electricity
1820 John Daniell invented a cell consisting of copper and zinc plates and copper and zinc sulphate
1834 Michael Faraday conducted experiments with a ferrite ring, a galvanometer, and a battery
1834 Michael Faraday also developed the principle of ionic mobility in chemical reactions of batteries.
1836 John F. Daniell an English chemist, produced a cell that was not subject to polarization.
1839 William Grove developed the first fuel cell, produced energy using hydrogen and oxygen
1859 Gaston Plante invents lead acid storage battery  "wet cell"
1868 Georges Leclanche invents "single fluid electric generating battery".using zinc
1881 Emile Alphonse Faure developed batteries using a mixture of lead oxides for the positive plate
1886 German scientist, Dr. Carl Gassner Jr. invents the first "dry cell" batteries.  (US 373,064)
1886 The National Carbon Co. was founded the then Brush Electric Co. executive W. H. Lawrence
1896 First commercial battery for sale. Carbon-zinc battery by National Carbon Company
1898 National Carbon Company introduces the first D cell battery
1898 Nathan Stubblefield, combined primary and secondary electric battery (US 600,457)
1898 Conrad Hubert invents "electric hand torch" flashlight
1900 Thomas Alva Edison invents storage battery
1900 Waldemar Junger and Karl Berg invent nickel-cadmium battery (ni-cad)
1905 American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co renamed The American Ever Ready Company
1914 National Carbon Company buys half interest in The American Ever Ready Company
1917 National Carbon Co. merged with Union Carbide to form The Union Carbide and Carbon Co
1942 Samuel Ruben and Philip Rogers Mallory developed the mercury cell.
1949 Lew Urry developed the small alkaline battery at the Eveready Battery Company laboratory
1953 Samuel Ruben improved the alkaline manganese battery
1954 The Mallory Battery Company introduced alkaline manganese cells in a new size, the AAA.
1954 Gerald Pearson , Daryl Chapin , and Calvin Fuller invent the first solar battery or solar cell
1955 Russell S. Ohl developed a wafer of silicon that produced free electrons
1956:Eveready Battery Company develops the 9-volt battery
1956 Francis Thomas Bacon developed the hydrogen - oxygen fuel cell
1959:Eveready Battery Company introduces the first commercially available alkaline battery.
1960:Miniature silver-oxide or “button batteries” are developed for hearing aides and watches.
1960 First nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery system is developed by Waldmar Junger in Sweden.
1964 Duracell brand alkaline batteries introduced by the Mallory Battery Company
1989 The Energizer Bunny starts "going and going"
1992:The first lithium batteries are commercially available. Powerful AA-size batteries 
battery, electric battery, voltic pile, wet cell, dry cell,
Alessandro Volta, Luigi Galvani, John F. Daniell, William R. Grove, Gaston Plante, Georges Leclanche, Thomas Alva Edison, Carl Gassner Jr, Waldemar Junger, Karl Berg, Lew Urry, volt, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Electricity has fascinated human kind since our ancestors first witnessed lightning. In ancient Greece, Thales observed that an electric charge could be generated by rubbing amber, for which the Greek word is electron. In 1938 a jar was found just outside Baghdad, Iraq (that may be, could be or is believed to be) the first battery. The jar is about 2000 years old from the Parthian period. The jar is composed of a clay jar with a stopper made of asphalt. Sticking through the asphalt is an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder. When filled with vinegar - or any other electrolytic solution - the jar produces about 1.1 volts. But, such ancient knowledge in the history of electricity bears no known continuous relationship to the development of modern batteries. Its form, though, is nearly identical to the principles that are in use today

The German physicist Otto von Guericke experimented with generating electricity in 1650. The English physicist Stephen Gray discovered electrical conductivity in 1729. The American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin studied the properties of electricity by conducting his famous experiment of flying a kite with a key attached during electrical storms in 1752.

Luigi Galvani is famous for his experiments concerning "the electrical forces in muscular movements", leading up to his theory of animal electricity. This began with the accidental observation, in 1780, of the twitching of the legs of a dissected frog when the bared crural nerve was touched with the steel scalpel. He worked diligently along these lines, but waited for eleven years before he published the results and his ingenious and simple theory. This theory discovered that when nerve and muscle touch two dissimilar metals in contact with each other, a contraction of the muscle takes place. But he incorrectly thought fluid in the frog's body was the source of the electricity. The theory has been abandoned by scientists on account of later discoveries by Italian inventor Alessandro Volta. Volta proved that the source of the electricity was a reaction caused by the animal's body fluids being touched by two different types of metal.

Beginning his work in 1794, Volta observed the electrical interaction between two different metals submerged near each other in an acidic solution. Based on this principle, his first battery consisted of a series of alternating copper and zinc rings in an acid solution known as an electrolyte. His device for generating a consistent flow of electricity was invented in 1800. He called his invention a column battery, although it came to be commonly known as the Volta battery, Voltaic cell or Voltaic pile. Volta’s discovery of a means of converting chemical energy into electrical energy formed the basis for nearly all modern batteries. Volta researched the effects which different metals produced when exposed to salt water. In 1801, Volta demonstrated the Voltaic cell to Napoleon Bonaparte (who later ennobled him, Count, for his discoveries).

In 1800 , William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle used a battery to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen. Sir Humphry Davy researched this chemical effect at the same time. Davy researched the decomposition of substances (called electrolysis ). In 1813 , he constructed a 2,000-plate paired battery in the basement of Britain's Royal Society, covering 889 ft² (83 m²). Through this experiment, Davy deduced that electrolysis was the action in the voltaic pile that produced electricity. In 1820, the British researcher John Frederic Daniell improved the voltaic cell. The Daniell cell consisted of copper and zinc plates and copper and zinc sulphates . It was used to operate telegraphs and doorbells.

Between 1832 and 1834 , Michael Faraday conducted experiments with a ferrite ring , a galvanometer, and a connected battery. When the battery was connected or disconnected, the galvanometer deflected. Faraday also developed the principle of ionic mobility in chemical reactions of batteries. In 1839 , William Robert Grove developed the first fuel cell, which produced electrical energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen. Grove developed another form the electric cell using zinc and platinum electrodes. These electrodes were exposed to two acids separated by a diaphragm.

The next step in the evolution of electrical energy storage was the invention of the lead acid storage battery in 1859 by the French physicist Gaston Plante. This chemical battery used a liquid electrolyte, and was not easy to move. Based on the pioneering work done between 1867 and 1877 by Georges Leclanche in France, the situation showed promise of changing to a more portable battery. Around 1881, Emile Alphonse Faure , with his colleagues, developed batteries using a mixture of lead oxides for the positive plate electrolyte. These had faster reactions and higher efficiency.

Dr. Carl Gassner Jr. produced the first "dry" cell in 1886 with zinc as the container for the other elements as well as for the negative electrode. The electrolyte was absorbed in a porous material and the cell was sealed across the top. During 1886 Dr. Gassner obtained patents throughout Europe. A U.S. patent  no. 373,064 was issued on November 15, 1887. In the dry cell battery, the electrolyte is a damp paste so that there is no liquid to leak out, and thus quite portable. It became the prototype for the dry battery industry.

The National Carbon Company was founded in 1886 by the then Brush Electric Company executive W. H. Lawrence. The company would supply carbon items needed in electrical devices such as carbon-arc electrodes, motor brushes and rods used in carbon-zinc batteries. That same year the first commercial battery went on sale. It was a carbon-zinc battery introduced by National Carbon Company. In 1898 the  National Carbon Company introduces the first D cell battery. In 1905, National Carbon Company which had supplied "Eveready" with materials for their batteries, bought a half interest in the company for $200,000. Conrad Hubert remained president and there was little change in the general policies of the company. The name was changed to "The American Ever Ready Company". In 1914, American Ever Ready became part of National Carbon Company now forming a manufacturer specializing in both batteries and lighting products.

Since those early days, either 2000 years ago or 200 years ago, many improvements have been made to the battery. Even today chemist, scientists and inventors are working to find additional improvements and new applications for the electric battery.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Alessandro Volta Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Electricity   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages
/ Bluewood Books (1983) 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.
The Book of Inventions
by Ian Harrison / Hardcover: 288 pages / National Geographic (November 1, 2004)
This extremely lively-and intricately researched-book is a rousing romp through the history of inventions and their inventors through time, from the tiny paper clip-coined "the world's most valuable invention"-to the massive jet engine; from mastermind Leonardo daVinci, to quirky, colorful, dual-cyclone-vacuum-cleaner inventor James Dyson.

Collector's Guide to Battery Toys: Batteries Not Included  (This title is out of print.)
by Don Hultzman / Paperback - 144 pages / Collector Books; November, 1997
This 110 page softbound book features more than 300 full color, sharp, large photos. A good
introduction to the collectible is provided. There are over 1,600 entries in this book.
Gizmos & Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions That Work (& Knowing Why)
by Jill Frankel Hauser, Michael Kline (Illustrator) / Paperback: 144 pages / Williamson Pub; (1999)
Gear up to discover science by constructing weird, wacky contraptions. With this guide, children
can start building, questioning, creating, and inventing--all the while learning fun physics principles
and good science practices.
Discovery Box: The Battery
by Gallimard Jeunesse / Hardcover - 32 pages / Scholastic Trade;March, 1998
With this compact book and activity kit in the Scholastic Discovery Box series, kids ages 6 and older can revel in the wonders of electricity--without being shocked. The accompanying richly illustrated, caption-packed, 32-page booklet is peppered with all sorts of fascinating facts about the history and workings of electricity, and more information about batteries than you can shine a flashlight at.

ON THE WEB:
Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta
His young childhood did not show the makings of a prodigy. It was not until the age of four that he talked, and his family was convinced that he was retarded.
(URL: www.italian-american.com/volta.htm)
History of Batteries
Everything you need to know about batteries from Energizer.
(URL: www.energizer.com/learning/historyofbatteries.asp)
The Human Battery

In 1836, John F. Daniell, an English chemist, introduced a more efficient primary cell. The Daniell cell had two liquid electrolytes and produced a steadier current than Volta's device.
(URL: www.spartechsoftware.com/reeko/Experiments/ExpHumanBattery.htm)

Gassner Dry Cell Battery
Dr. Gassner produced the first "dry" cell in 1888 with zinc as the container for the other elements as well as for the negative electrode. The electrolyte was absorbed in a porous material and the cell was sealed across the top. This cell was easy to handle and portable. It became the prototype for the dry battery industry. A U.S. patent was issued to Gassner in 1887 (No. 373,064).
(URL: chem.ch.huji.ac.il/~eugeniik/history/gassner.html)

Batteries
Once the processing chips got smaller, so did the devices. Smaller devices meant portability and portable products required power – specifically, battery power. From the Consumer Electronics Association Web site.
(URL: www.ce.org/Press/CEA_Pubs/942.asp)

Portable Power
Much twenty-first-century technology runs on nineteenth-century chemistry. Artical by Curt Wohleber for Invention & Technology magazine.
(URL: www.inventionandtechnology.com/xml/2002/4/it_2002_4_dept_objlessons.xml)
Volta's Electrical Battery Invention
The Voltaic pile stimulated so much scientific inquiry that, by 1831, when Faraday built the first dynamo, the basic principles of electricity had been established. From IEEE History Center.
(URL: www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/milestones_photos/volta.html)

The Baghdad Battery
Believed to be the first battery, about 2000 years old from the Parthian period. The jar was found just outside Baghdad and is composed of a clay jar with a stopper made of asphalt. Sticking through the asphalt is an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder. When filled with vinegar - or any other electrolytic solution - the jar produces about 1.1 volts.
(URL: www.unmuseum.org/bbattery.htm)
Super Scientists
Volta modified this effect to produce the first continuous flow of electric current. Around 1800, he invented a wet battery called a Voltaic Pile.
(URL: www.energyquest.ca.gov/scientists/volta.html)
DURACELL Brand Battery
The story of Duracell begins in the early 1920's with an inventive scientist named Samuel Ruben and an eager manufacturer of tungsten filament wire named Philip Rogers Mallory.Duracell believes there is no limit to the potential of portable power — and as a company we will always strive to find innovative and efficient ways to power your life in the future.
(URL: www.duracell.com/company/history.asp?id=50&)

Timeline of Batteries
While it is obvious that transportable energy will always be needed, it may not always be batteries that provide it. Fuel cells may take over as the favorable form of energy. A student ThinkQuest project.
(URL: library.thinkquest.org/)
Sparks Museum
The invention of the battery page includes copies of Volta's notes, historical paintings and pages from his book.
(URL: www.sparkmuseum.com/BOOK_VOLTA.HTM)
Alessandro Volta

In 1800 he constructed the first battery to produce electricity.
(URL: scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Volta.html)
The Battery: Using Chemistry to Make Energy
A battery converts chemical energy into electric energy. It is a connected bunch (or “battery”) of electro-chemical devices. The Italian inventor Alessandro Volta invented the first battery in 1800.
(URL: www.ieee-virtual-museum.org/collection/tech.php?taid=&id=2345793&lid=1)
Batteries - what would we do without them?
Let's talk about the smaller, portable kind, the ones you throw away when they don't run your toy or light your flashlight anymore. There are dozens of them, different sizes, different chemistries usually for different purposes. Article by Brooke Schumm for Electrochemistry Encyclopedia.
(URL: electrochem.cwru.edu/ed/encycl/art-b02-batt-nonr.htm)

HOW IT WORKS:
How a Battery Works
A battery is essentially a can full of chemicals that produce electrons. Chemical reactions able to produce electrons are called Electro-chemical reactions. Complete explanation at Energizer.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The term volt, a unit for measuring electrical potential difference and electromotive force, is also derived from Alessandro Volta's name.
  • The name Galvanism is given to the manifestations of current electricity. Named after Luigi Galvani.
  • It would take about eight AA batteries to boil a cup of water.
  • The term battery had been coined by Benjamin Franklin to refer to a collection of Leyden jars, which were essentially large capacitors. It was adopted by later scientists to describe a collection of voltaic cells.
  • In dry cell lights, once a month you should remove the batteries. You then use a pencil eraser and scrub both terminals of each battery. If you can get to the contact points and bottom spring in the light, scrub them with the eraser, too. If your batteries show any sign of leakage, replace them.
  • You should replace flashlight batteries every six months whether you have used the light or not.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised October 26, 2005.
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