Interesting facts about batteries

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.

When a battery is supplying power, its positive terminal is the cathode and its negative terminal is the anode. The terminal marked negative is the source of electrons that will flow through an external electric circuit to the positive terminal. When a battery is connected to an external electric load, a redox reaction converts high-energy reactants to lower-energy products, and the free-energy difference is delivered to the external circuit as electrical energy.

Historically the term “battery” specifically referred to a device composed of multiple cells – however, the usage has evolved to include devices composed of a single cell.

One important classification for batteries is by their life cycle. “Primary” batteries can produce current as soon as assembled, but once the active elements are consumed, they cannot be electrically recharged. The development of the lead-acid battery and subsequent “secondary” or “chargeable” types allowed energy to be restored to the cell, extending the life of permanently assembled cells. The introduction of nickel and lithium based batteries in the latter half of the 20th century made the development of innumerable portable electronic devices feasible, from powerful flashlights to mobile phones. Very large stationary batteries find some applications in grid energy storage, helping to stabilize electric power distribution networks.

Commercially available batteries are designed and built with market factors in mind. The quality of materials and the complexity of electrode and container design are reflected in the market price sought for any specific product. As new materials are discovered or the properties of traditional ones improved, however, the typical performance of even older battery systems sometimes increases by large percentages.

The Baghdad Battery (c. 150 BC—650 AD) has been theorised to have been a device that held electric current, but this is inconclusive.

Benjamin Franklin first used the term “battery” in 1749 when he was doing experiments with electricity using a set of linked Leyden jar capacitors. Franklin grouped a number of the jars into what he described as a “battery”, using the military term for weapons functioning together. By multiplying the number of holding vessels, a stronger charge could be stored, and more power would be available on discharge.

Italian physicist Alessandro Volta built and described the first electrochemical battery, the voltaic pile, in 1800. This was a stack of copper and zinc plates, separated by brine-soaked paper disks, that could
produce a steady current for a considerable length of time. Volta did not understand that the voltage was due to chemical reactions. He thought that his cells were an inexhaustible source of energy, and that the associated corrosion effects at the electrodes were a mere nuisance, rather than an unavoidable consequence of their operation, as Michael Faraday showed in 1834.

The Voltaic Pile could not deliver an electrical current for a long period of time. In 1836, 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.

In 1901, Thomas 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

In 1954, Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller, and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery. A solar battery converts the sun’s energy into electricity.

In 1964, the term “Duracell” was introduced as a brand, from “durable cell”.

The longest lasting AA alkaline (LR6) battery cell is Panasonic EVOLTA NEO, produced by Panasonic Corporation (Japan), which achieved an approved performance index of 221.59, in tests performed by Intertek Semko AB, in Kista, Sweden, between 30 June to 29 July 2020.

Engineers at Rice University, Houston, USA, have developed a battery 60,000 times smaller than a conventional AAA. At only 0.5 microns high, and an almost invisible 150 nanometres thick, the battery is formed by nanowires, one half being the cathode and one half being the anode. The battery is halfway between conventional chemical-reaction batteries and a “super-capacitor” that can hold charge and release it as demanded.

Around a dozen clay jars, measuring around 13cm (5in) long, and dating back around 2,000 years, are believed to be the world’s oldest electrical cells (batteries). The jars contain a copper cylinder and an iron rod, along with signs of acidic corrosion. Modern replicas of these objects have been shown to function as rudimentary electrical cells (batteries), and it is possible that they were used for electroplating. Their exact origin and age is disputed. But some reports claim they were discovered in the basement of the Baghdad Museum by German archaeologist Wilhelm Konig in 1938.

The longest line of batteries is 1,380, achieved by Saraybahçe İlkokulu (Turkey) in Kocaeli, Izmit, Turkey, on 27 September 2021.

The fastest time to build an AA battery pyramid is 16.60 seconds, achieved by Leon Dorff (Germany), in Hilter, Germany, on 5 Nov 2012.

The most AA batteries held in the hand is 48, achieved by Silvio Sabba (Italy), in Pioltello, Milan, Italy, on 19 March 2012.