Where Did Batteries Come From?

Ever wonder about that? We are incensed when our phone doesn’t last all day or our laptop dies. It’s easy to get mad at the little buggers, but how did we get here? Well this is a chronology of the high points in the battery’s evolution. Read this and you will know more than 98% of the population! You are welcome!

  • Benjamin Franklin was the first person to coin the term “battery” in 1748. He was referring to an array of charged glass plates. Not sure what Ben was doing with charged glass plates, but I feel sure it did not involve making dinner!
  • Fast forward to 1800 you find a daring Italian by the name of Alessandro Volta. (Yes, the word volt goes back to him!) He created the first “wet cell” battery called the voltaic pile using brine, cardboard, and metal discs. You must hand it to him, what would you do with wet salty cardboard?
  • Now the Frenchman Gaston Plante, developed the first practical lead acid battery that could be recharged. This is the guy you need to thank every time you get into your car.
  • Not to be outdone, fellow Frenchman Georges LeClanche took Volta’s wet cell idea, and made it safer by using carbon and crushed manganese dioxide. Still pretty nasty as it was in a pot full of ammo- nium chloride, but reliable enough to be used two years later in over 20,000 telegraph machines world- wide. Battery power was coming of age!
  • Scientists were really getting turned on by this emerging technology. In 1881, Carl Gassner invented the first dry cell Zinc-Carbon battery, finally making it safe for everyone. Thanks a bunch Carl. The whole acid thing didn’t make the battery a friendly device.
  • Eight years later, Waldmar Jungner invented the first Nickel Cadmium rechargeable battery. Without his work, we would still be tied to our phones with curly cords.
  • But the biggie came from America’s favorite inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, who in 1901 invented the alkaline storage battery. This greatly extended the life of the battery and opened a whole new world for inventors.

Today, it is hard to imagine everyday life without battery power. In large part, modern society depends on batteries to keep us connected, to keep us mobile, healthy, and to protect us. The advent of lithium ion batteries make cells smaller and longer lasting than any of these scientists of yesterday could have ever imagined.

What the next great improvements are we can’t say, but all of the energy technologies that we want to pursue to free us from the dependence on oil share a common thread. They all need to store the energy they create, hence the battery secures its place!

Powerhouse Two understands the past, are experts in the now, and are always looking ahead.

So, the next time you hold a lowly AA in your hand, show the little fella some respect. He has earned it!