History and Timeline of the Battery

The Invention of the Battery

Close up of batteries

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A battery, which is actually an electric cell, is a device that produces electricity from a chemical reaction. In a one cell battery, you would find a negative electrode; an electrolyte, which conducts ions; a separator, also an ion conductor; and a positive electrode.

Timeline of Battery History

  • 1748Benjamin Franklin first coined the term "battery" to describe an array of charged glass plates.
  • 1780 to 1786Luigi 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 to create batteries.
  • 1800 Voltaic PileAlessandro 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 Voltaic 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 Daniell Cell—The Voltaic Pile could not deliver an electrical current for a long period of time. Englishman, John F. Daniell invented the Daniell Cell that used two electrolytes: copper sulfate and zinc sulfate. The Daniel Cell lasted longer than the Volta cell or pile. This battery, which produced about 1.1 volts, was used to power objects such as telegraphs, telephones, and doorbells, remained popular in homes for over 100 years.
  • 1839 Fuel Cell—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 Rechargeable—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 Leclanche Carbon-Zinc Cell—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 current 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." Georges Leclanche then further improved his design by substituting the ammonium chloride paste for liquid electrolyte and invented a method of sealing the battery, inventing the first dry cell, an improved design that was now transportable.
  • 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 Alkaline StorageThomas Alva Edison invented the alkaline storage battery. Thomas Edison's alkaline cell had iron as the anode material (-) and nickelic oxide as the cathode material (+).
  • 1949 Alkaline-Manganese 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.
  • 1954 Solar Cells—Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller, and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery. A solar battery converts the sun's energy into 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 razor blade), 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.
  • 1964—Duracell was incorporated.
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Bellis, Mary. "History and Timeline of the Battery." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/battery-timeline-1991340. Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 26). History and Timeline of the Battery. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/battery-timeline-1991340 Bellis, Mary. "History and Timeline of the Battery." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/battery-timeline-1991340 (accessed March 27, 2023).