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Inventors Battery History
A battery, which is actually an electric cell, is a device that produces electricity from a chemical reaction. Strictly speaking, a battery consists of two or more cells connected in series or parallel, but the term is generally used for a single cell. A cell consists of a negative electrode; an electrolyte, which conducts ions; a separator, also an ion conductor; and a positive electrode. Continue with How Batteries Work/Battery Types

Timeline of Battery History

  • 1748 - Benjamin Franklin first coined the term "battery" to describe an array of charged glass plates.
  • 1780 to 1786 - Luigi Galvani demonstrated what we now understand to be the electrical basis of nerve impulses and provided the cornerstone of research for later inventors like Volta.
  • 1800 - Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile and discovered the first practical method of generating electricity. Constructed of alternating discs of zinc and copper with pieces of cardboard soaked in brine between the metals, the voltic pile produced electrical current. The metallic conducting arc was used to carry the electricity over a greater distance. Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile was the first "wet cell battery" that produced a reliable, steady current of electricity. 
  • 1836 - Englishman, John F. Daniel invented the Daniel Cell that used two electrolytes: copper sulfate and zinc sulfate. The Daniel Cell was somewhat safer and less corrosive then the Volta cell. 
  • 1839 - William Robert Grove developed the first fuel cell, which produced electrical by combining hydrogen and oxygen.
  • 1839 to 1842 - Inventors created improvements to batteries that used liquid electrodes to produce electricity. Bunsen (1842) and Grove (1839) invented the most successful.
  • 1859 - French inventor, Gaston Plante developed the first practical storage lead-acid battery that could be recharged (secondary battery). This type of battery is primarily used in cars today.
  • 1866 - French engineer, Georges Leclanche patented the carbon-zinc wet cell battery called the Leclanche cell. According to The History of Batteries: "George Leclanche's original cell was assembled in a porous pot. The positive electrode consisted of crushed manganese dioxide with a little carbon mixed in. The negative pole was a zinc rod. The cathode was packed into the pot, and a carbon rod was inserted to act as a currency collector. The anode or zinc rod and the pot were then immersed in an ammonium chloride solution. The liquid acted as the electrolyte, readily seeping through the porous cup and making contact with the cathode material. The liquid acted as the electrolyte, readily seeping through the porous cup and making contact with the cathode material."
  • 1868 - Twenty thousand of Georges Leclanche's cells were now being used with telegraph equipment.
  • 1881 - J.A. Thiebaut patented the first battery with both the negative electrode and porous pot placed in a zinc cup.
  • 1881 - Carl Gassner invented the first commercially successful dry cell battery (zinc-carbon cell).
  • 1899 - Waldmar Jungner invented the first nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery.
  • 1901 - Thomas Alva Edison invented the alkaline storage battery.
  • 1949 - Lew Urry invented the small alkaline battery.
  • 1954 - Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery.

Alessandro Volta
Biography of Alessandro Volta the inventor of the first practical battery in 1880.

Alkaline Battery
Lew Urry developed the small alkaline battery in 1949. The inventor was working for the Eveready Battery Co. at their research laboratory in Parma, Ohio. Alkaline batteries last five to eight times as long as zinc-carbon cells, their predecessors. This was not a patentable invention, since Volta and others long ago created the principles of batteries.

Solar Battery
A solar battery converts the sun's energy to electricity. In 1954, Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery. The inventors created an array of several strips of silicon (each about the size of a razorblade), placed them in sunlight, captured the free electrons and turned them into electrical current. Bell Laboratories in New York announced the prototype manufacture of a new solar battery. Bell had funded the research. The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system (Americus, Georgia) on October 4 1955.

The history of photovoltaics includes the discovery of the solar battery. PV is the technological basis for solar power.

©Mary Bellis

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