Batteries are so prevalent today that they are practically invisible to us. However, what most people don’t realize is that batteries are an amazing invention with a long history – and equally interesting future. A battery refers to any device that holds chemical energy and converts it into electricity. Batteries are, in essence, compact chemical reactors. It is the reaction within the battery that produces the energetic electrons that flow through it to power an external device.
The interesting thing about batteries is that they’ve been around for thousands of years. In 1938, the Director of Baghdad Museum found what’s now known as the “Baghdad Battery” in the museum’s basement. An analysis of the device showed that it was of Mesopotamian origin and dated back to 250BC.
While there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the battery, some experts suggest that it was used either for a religious tingle, electroplating, or pain relief.
The first instance of the use of the term “battery” was back in 1749 by American inventor and scientist Benjamin Franklin as he was experimenting with electricity using a set of linked capacitors.
However, the first real battery was invented in 1800 by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta. Volta stacked discs of zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) separated by a cloth soaked in brine.
By connecting wires on both ends of the stack, Volta noted that the device produced a steady current. Each cell, made up of a stack of zinc and copper discs separated by a brine-soaked cloth, produced .76 volts. A multiple of the value can be obtained by considering the number of cells stacked together.
The lead-acid battery, which is one of the most long-lasting batteries ever made, was conceived in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté. The invention was so reliable that it is still being used to start most car engines today. The lead-acid battery is the oldest known example of a rechargeable battery.
Batteries today are available in a wide range of sizes from tiny ones such as those used in digital watches to large megawatt batteries that store power from substations or solar farms to guarantee a stable supply of electricity in entire islands or villages.
It’s worth noting that batteries aren’t all the same. Each type of battery available today is based on different chemistries that produce basic cell voltages within the 1.0 volts and 3.6 volts range. Stacking cells in series increases voltage while connecting them in parallel increases current supply. This principle is what’s used to add up to the needed currents and voltages, all the way up to Megawatt sizes.
As technology continues to advance, there’s a lot of expectation that battery technology will continue to improve as newer models are currently being made with enough capacity to store the energy generated by wind and solar systems and power a home for several days without an issue.
How Does a Battery Work?
Once a battery has been discharged, the chemical reaction within it produces extra electrons. A good example of a reaction that leads to the production of electrons is the oxidation of (Fe) iron to produce rust. When the metal reacts with oxygen, it gives up its electrons to the gas, creating iron oxide. As a side point if you are looking for UPS bypass switch then see here.
The standard construction of virtually all batteries is to use two compounds or metals with unique chemical potentials and keep them separate using a porous insulator. Chemical potential refers to the energy stored in the bonds and atoms of a compound. It is this energy that’s passed on to the moving electrons once they’re allowed to travel through the external device connected to the battery.
Conducting fluids such as water and salt are used to transmit soluble ions from one compound/metal to the other during the reaction and are known as electrolytes.
The compound/metal losing electrons during discharge is known as the anode while the one that accepts the electrons is known as the cathode.