Batteries: A Quick Retrospective

Batteries: A Quick Retrospective

Batteries are amazing pieces of technology that can power a number of different devices. While the modern batteries we know today are relatively new technology, you may be surprised to learn that batteries have been around for hundreds of years!

Benjamin Franklin is credited as the first person to ever use the term “battery”. He first used it in 1749 to describe a set of capacitors he used for his experiments with electricity. He never explored this idea further however. The use of the term “battery” was simply to give a name to a scientific device he had created. It wasn’t until 1800 did we get our first battery.

Alessandro Volta invented the first battery when he created what is known as the “Voltaic pile”. The Voltaic pile was a stack of zinc and copper discs separated by a layer of cloth or cardboard soaked in a salt-water brine. This connection of elements caused a chemical reaction that created an electric current. It would be over 30 years until the battery was improved upon with the invention of the “Daniel cell” in 1836. Invented by John Frederic Daniel, the Daniel cell became the first practical source of electricity. This battery had a longer, more reliable current, was less corrosive and soon became the industry standard for the growing telegraph networks.

Over the years changes were made to not only improve a battery’s power, but to make it more accessible to a wider array of applications. Different chemicals and casings were used to make the battery stronger and more practical. As technology grew more complex, the demand for better batteries grew with it. The life span of the battery was still a problem. Once a battery was used up it became useless. This all changed with the invention of the lead-acid battery. Gaston Plante found that using lead oxide and sulfuric acid caused a chemical reaction that could be reversed, effectively reaching the battery. In fact, these lead-acid batteries are still used in cars today, with the basic principles remaining the same.

Rechargeable batteries are particularly useful when used with solar energy. In order to recharge a battery you must connect it to another power source. You may remember this in the form of bulky recharging ports that were plugged into wall outlets. However, solar panels have become a viable option for recharging batteries. It wasn’t until the invention of the dry-cell battery by Carl Gassner that we really begin to see the battery, as we know it today. By mixing ammonium chloride (an electrolyte) with plaster of Paris to form a paste, Gassner was able to remove the liquid from the battery entirely. Up until that point, a battery could only sit up-right, or else the liquid would spill. With the dry-cell a battery could be placed on its side and it would not leak, making portable electrical devices more practical.

Then came lithium. Experimentation with lithium batteries started as far back as 1912, but didn’t become available until 1970. Lithium has a high electro-chemical potential and energy-to-weight ratio. It can be small, but still produce a large amount of power, making them ideal for small electronic devices. With the rise of portable devices, such as smart phones, laptops and tablets, lithium batteries have become the standard. The invention of lithium polymer batteries has allowed batteries to transform from the classic cylinders of a AA, to the flat phone batteries.

If you need deep cycle, lead acid, AGM, lithium, gel, alkaline or nickel metal hydride batteries, Polar Battery supply, quality and knowledge is second to none. Contact us today in Burnaby or Kamloops for great prices, great quality, and the know-how to help you best.

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