Here is my second “Invention Story” for you my dear followers. Today is 2nd April which makes it the letter “B”. So, let’s talk about Batteries. Of course, all of us can imagine how miserable our lives would be without batteries. There are more consequences than you ever thought would be, which I will be explaining in the end. Batteries magnificent importance in our lives made it deserve to be our invention of the day.
How much would we go back in time to start telling the story of batteries do you think? Some would suggest about 214 years to 1800 when Alessandro Volta invented the first electrochemical battery. But no. We are going back further in time. Do you think I mean the 1749 Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with electricity? No, we’ll come back to that later. But for the start we are going about more than 2500 years in time!!!!!
Yes, we’re going back again to our Ancient Ancestors like we did with the Air Conditioner before. Are you interested and excited now to know more? Yes, the battery and electricity experiments MAY date back to our first civilizations. Noticed that “MAY” back there? It is there because as many other theories we DO NOT know lots of things as 100% sure about first civilizations. There are lots of mysteries back there.
So, let’s start telling the story of what MAY BE the first batteries on Earth. The Baghdad Battery.
Back in 1938, the German archaeologist Wilhelm Konig unearthed a five-inch-long (13 cm) clay jar containing a copper cylinder that encased an iron rod while working in Khujut Rabu outside Baghdad in Iraq. After some time many scientists adopted the theory that these jars were used to generate electricity more than 2,000 years before modern day batteries were invented.
The dating of these artifacts went back around 200 BC in the Parthian era, circa 250 BC to AD 225. The problem is the Parthians were not noted for their scientific achievements, as they were skilled warriors. Another theory suggests that it dates back to the Sassanian period (circa AD 225 – 640) which marks the end of the ancient and the beginning of the more scientific medieval era.
And if you don’t believe that these jars can’t generate electricity, here is a video proof of it.
In this video, a professor generates about 0.5 volt from a baghdad battery replica and use it to gild a silver statue.
The Baghdad Battery main components are as shown in this picture.
When a suitable electrolyte (grape juice as in the video) is combined with copper and iron they produce electricity.
Of course, there are other theories for the possible uses of these jars from skeptics like they were used to hold papyrus scrolls.
As many other ancient civilization discoveries, these all are theories still to be proven right or wrong.
Now, we will fast forward till 1749 when Benjamin Franklin first used the term “battery” in his paper to Peter Collinson to describe a set of linked capacitors he used for his experiments with electricity. These capacitors were panels of glass coated with metal on each surface. These capacitors were charged with a static generator and discharged by touching metal to their electrode. Linking them together in a “battery” gave a stronger discharge.
This is a picture of a battery of linked glasses like the franklin battery.
In 1780, Luigi Galvani was dissecting a frog affixed to a brass hook. When he touched its leg with his iron scalpel, the leg twitched. Galvani believed the energy that drove this contraction came from the leg itself,
and called it “animal electricity”. However, Alessandro Volta, a friend and fellow scientist, disagreed, believing this phenomenon was caused by two different metals joined together by a moist intermediary. And here we go, in 1800 Volta invented the first true battery (voltaic pile). The voltaic pile consisted of pairs of copper and zinc discs piled on top of each other, separated by a layer of cloth or cardboard soaked in brine (i.e., the electrolyte). Unlike the Leyden jar, the voltaic pile produced a continuous and stable current, and lost little charge over time when not in use, though his early models could not produce a voltage strong enough to produce sparks. He experimented with various metals and found that zinc and silver gave the best results.
After the voltaic pile there were many improvements to solve chemical problems and to increase the battery’s life. Many electrochemical cells were invented to improve the brilliant invention of Volta like Daniel Cell, Bird’s Cell, Porous Pot Cell, Gravity Cell, Poggendorff Cell, Grove Cell, … etc. Till we came into the dry and rechargeable cells.
Now, you know the invention story of the battery. But, why did I choose this one? There were many brilliant inventions starting with “B” like Braille System for example. Of course, that was because of its impact on the world, right? But, what is its impact? What will come to your mind when I tell you to imagine that batteries were not invented at all? I discovered that some people would say we would have a real problem because there won’t be what is called today “portable devices” and that would have slowed scientific progress and would make our lives harder. That’s right, but that would only be a minor problem. Why? Because if it weren’t for batteries invention there wouldn’t have been any electricity at all !!!!!!
WHAT? Yes that’s the truth. Let’s see. According to this:
Prior to Volta’s invention of the “pile”, as he called it, there was no practical way of producing continuous electrical current (generators had of course not yet been invented). You could make static discharges, yes, just as we can today by petting a cat or by rubbing a glass rod with a wool cloth.. but static discharges are of high, wildly varying voltage and miniscule current. Not much good if you want to quantify and measure things.
Volta’s “pile”, as he called it, was the first practical source of continuous, low-voltage, electric current – direct current, since no source of alternating current existed either. Furthermore, various voltages and currents could be obtained very easily: Voltage could be changed by stacking up more or fewer plates, current by changing the diameter.
As the first, and for a long time only, source of electric current, Volta’s “pile” (you’ll see why he called it that when you look at a picture) was absolutely essential for the later experiments into electromagnetism by Oersted and Ampere, and of course Michael Faraday’s monumental work on electrochemistry, electromagnetism, and magnetic induction.
That in turn led to electric motors and generators and literally everything else that followed.
In this way *every* electrical and electronic invention owes its existence in no small part to Volta’s first battery, and so does much of our understanding of chemistry and atomic physics.
So, now you can imagine the HUGE impact of batteries on the world. Without it there wouldn’t have been any of the amazing technology and inventions that makes our lives easier today.