A brief history of battery technology

A brief history of battery technology


Batteries and accumulators are used by us frequently and willingly - and this in everyday life. From smartphones to flashlights to solar lamps in the garden, all these devices are equipped with batteries and accumulators. But what were the beginnings of the battery, and who invented the battery?


Who Invented the Battery?



Batteries are an integral part of our lives today, and if we're honest, we don't really think about who invented them and why. Every invention has its reason, and preceding it are many thoughts and steps to achieve a result that we can benefit from in the 21st century. Even though the battery has evolved over the centuries, it still relies on the invention from the 18th century. And who invented the battery? The inventor of the battery was Mr. Volta, Alessandro Volta, who invented the first so-called battery at that time.

He was aided, if you will, by Luigi Galvani, who, through his experiments with frog legs, the so-called "Galvanism," gave Volta the idea. Galvani connected frog legs with copper and iron, causing the legs to twitch. Galvani, at that time, believed it was a kind of "animal electricity," with the frog acting as the capacitor (very simply explained: a passive electrical element that can store electricity). However, Volta was certain that there must be something else behind it - the foundation for the world's first battery was laid.

For him, the frog was more like an electricity indicator, indicating that electricity was flowing. Since Volta was determined to be right, he continued his research and then invented the so-called Voltaic pile.

This pile consists of elements, which in turn consist of copper plates - electrolytes - zinc plates. Thus, such a Voltaic pile consists of several elements.

Of course, all this was not really mature yet, and many more steps were needed to get to today's battery. But even then, they knew the importance of the invention and could realize many great things - even if they were quite inefficient (from today's perspective).

But ultimately, the first stable power source was invented, on which many more great inventions are based, and which ultimately is also the mother of our current batteries and accumulators.

So, if one wonders who invented the battery, one must actually mention Volta and Galvani - because without Galvani's invention (Galvanism) and the resulting dispute, Volta probably would never have invented the first battery and built his Voltaic pile. However, when it comes to the question "Who is considered the inventor of the first battery," you can also confidently say Volta.

By the way, the name Volt for electrical voltage is derived from Volta, but he did not experience this honor, as he passed away approximately 70 years earlier at the age of 82.

So much for the history of the battery as a brief history of battery technology.


When Was the Battery Invented?



Volta was born in 1745 and already invented great things, like the electrophorus, at the age of 30. In 1780, Galvani conducted the experiment with twitching frog legs, giving birth to Galvanism. This led to years of dispute with Volta, which, in turn, ended in the invention of the Voltaic pile 19/20 years later. So, if one wonders, when was the battery invented, the answer would be 1799/1800, but the beginnings date back almost two decades.

The electric generator (which allows a hamster wheel to generate electricity) was only invented in 1830, so the first battery was a significant invention at that time.

Based on the Voltaic pile, many other great inventions were made. Electrolysis could be discovered, and electric telegraphy took its first steps. Arc lamps generated arcs of light, thanks to the Voltaic pile, and in 1839, the first electric boat was operated in St. Petersburg.

In medicine, too, the invention was intended to be used, for example, to distinguish between the dead and the seemingly dead. Unfortunately, this did not work as well as desired. It would take decades for this method to be further developed and improved.

Of course, the first battery had one or the other weakness, which was recognized and improved over time. Almost simultaneously, the trough battery was invented by William Cruickshank, which, in turn, was used to obtain direct current. But by 1836, the trough battery was no longer interesting, as the Daniell cell was invented, an advanced battery based on a zinc half-cell and a copper half-cell.

Many inventions were made in the first half of the 18th century, from which we still benefit today - like the steam locomotive.


History of Lithium-Ion Battery



While the battery has been around for a good 200 years, the battery is much younger and could pass as the great-great-great-great-grandchild. In 1979, American John Bannister Goodenough invented the lithium-ion battery. He turned 100 on July 23, 2022, and at that time, he leveraged the research at the Technical University of Munich. The history of the lithium-ion battery also began in Munich, where lithium batteries had been investigated since 1970. Goodenough's results were later published, but it wasn't until 10 years later that attempts were made at Oxford University. These efforts ultimately succeeded with the invention of the battery.

Of course, there were already batteries earlier, such as the lead-acid battery (also called lead collector), but these were heavy, had not much power, and, above all, were not as durable as the Li-ion battery.

Since demand determined supply even back then, and this battery was not in high demand, it took another 10 years until the Japanese used a lithium-ion battery (Sony), making the battery marketable. The battery at that time had a capacity of 1,200 mAh, while today's models can already have 6,900 mAh. For comparison, common batteries (rechargeable batteries) on the market have between 2000-3000 mAh.

Almost everyone has a large type of battery at home with a power bank, with which they charge their smartphones and mobile devices every day. Trail cameras can also run on batteries, and MP3 players and Walkmans also function with batteries.

The largest batteries are in America with a capacity of 1,200 MWh, whereas the largest battery in Europe is the Stocking Pelham Facility (Hertfordshire, UK), with a capacity of 50 MWh and a peak power of 50 MW.

Smaller batteries for daily use are available in a large and small variety at Electropapa. With the diverse selection of vhbw batteries, it is easy to switch to larger and fresher batteries. Especially when a new phone battery is needed or a powerful one for the video camera.

By the way, the term "Akku" is an abbreviation for accumulator, and the Latin word "accumulator" translates to collector. This brings us to the end of our brief history of battery technology.

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