Types and History A Condensed History of
Batteries by the Edison Tech Center
An Exide nickel
iron battery from 1934 (wet cell)
battery is an electrochemical device which converts chemical process
into electric energy. It is self contained unlike a fuel cell. It
uses an electrochemical cell or cells. A cell is built using electrodes
(a rod for example) separated from another electrode of a different
metal or carbon with an electrolyte in between. With the right materials
one can create a built up charge on one electrode, in other words negatively
charged ions are attracted to the cathode (-), meanwhile positively
charged ions are attracted to the anode(+) (the other electrode).
NiCd or NiCad
Lead Acid 1859
Alkaline (some are rechargable)
Lithium titanium oxide
Lithium iron-phosphate Batteries
Lithium iron magnesium phosphate
Nickel-iron Batteries (NiFe)
Thin film Li
V redox 10
Silver zinc (Ag-zinc)
History of Batteries:
The first battery 248
BC: The Bagdad Battery was built in the Parthian or Sassanid period
~248 BC - 226 AD. The battery consisted of a carbon rod in the center
of a clay vase. The rod was surrounded by an unknown electrolyte (likely
to be orange/lemon juice), then copper, then asphaltum. Each battery
had a weight of about 2 kilograms and produced 0.4-0.5 volts with open
contacts. These batteries were very weak. The "Bagdad Battery"
was found in 1936 and is believed to be authentic by many reputable
sources. We at the Edison Tech Center would like to see more world-wide
effort put into investigating/verifying this important piece of history.
The Egyptians: Some claim that the ancient Egyptians had batteries
similar to the Bagdad Battery.
The Ark of the Covenant: It has been theorized that the Ark of
the Covenant (a gold lined box) may have used early batteries to energize
the gold exterior. The box would then be able to give the illusion of
magic powers by shocking those who touched it. This is only a theory,
but an interesting use of electricity to create a sense of awe and fear.
Alessandro Volta of
Como, Italy created the first modern battery in 1800. He had a background
of chemistry and physics and taught at the Public School and later the
Royal School in Como. He used a zinc and copper electrode with an electrolyte
of sulphuric acid or a brine mixture (salt and water). The zinc reacted
with the negatively charged sulfate. The positively charged hydrogen
ions grab electrons from the copper forming hydrogen gas. The zinc rod
then became the negative electrode and the copper rod positive. Volta's
first battery was a result of 9 years of study starting with "animal
electricity" or the study of electrical current within the body.
A 1934 battery
used to run a Detroit Electric Car from 1914. The mercury
arc rectifier was used to recharge the first electric car's
A Nickel-cadmium Battery, D cell
The AA alkaline is the most
common disposable battery in the world
Today there are more
than 50 different variations of batteries. There about 10 different
kinds of primary batteries, and 5 types of rechargeable batteries.
- this type of battery is ready with electrical charge as soon
as it is constructed
- this type of battery must be charged after it is constructed
Wet Cell - The wet cell battery uses a liquid electrolyte.
The electrolyte immerses the other parts of the cell. A car battery
is a wet cell, you can hear the liquid slosh around when it is
shaken. These batteries are prone to spilling. The early Edison
batteries used thick glass housing to hold the potassium hydroxide
Dry Cell - The
dry cell uses a moist paste as the electrolyte. This battery can
be inverted without risk of spilling. The gel-cell battery was
developed to reduce the danger of acid spilling from the lead
1859 - Gaston Plante of France invents the most commonly used
large battery today: the lead acid battery.
The Lithium Ion Battery (Li-ion) is the most popular battery for
mobile phones and cameras due to a good energy density (power
stored vs. weight)
Most Batteries are
similar in construction to above, they have two plates of different
metals with a seperator in between. An electrolyte immerses the
cell. Batteries can go bad over time when the electrolyte fluid
or paste dries out. Some batteries are round, the two plates and
separator are rolled into a more compact form.
For continued learning
we recommend wikipedia. Watch the videos below to get a more interactive
Testing Lithium Batteries in Dr. Andy Burke's Lab: Three Types of Li
Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries:
of the GE battery business by Dr. Oliver Winn (former manager):
The Baker Electric Car used Edison lead-acid batteries in 1901
and photos and graphics by the Edison Tech Center
Research: Rick Delair, M.Whelan,
Wikipedia Batteries Lead Acid Batteries, Electropaedia,
Andrew Burke - UC Davis
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