My Appreciative Rant on Count Volta & Batteries

We have batteries to thank for everything from our cars to our mobile phones, but have you ever wondered where these wonderful contraptions came from?

Technically the first electric battery originated in Italy all thanks to Italian chemist and physicist Count Allesandro Volta. His inspiration towards making the first battery was sparked by Luigi Galvani, and Italian anatomist who had been dissecting a frog when its leg began to twitch. Knowing absolutely nothing about electrical nerve in the 18th century, Volta attempted to solve this mystery, eventually coming to the conclusion that the metal instruments used to hold the frog’s leg had conducted electricity. Volta continued working on this concept for several years until around 1800 when he finally created a continuous flow of electric current via a “wet battery”, now called a “Voltaic Pile.”

A Voltaic Pile consists of discs of copper and zinc separated by discs of paper or cardboard which are soaked in salt water (hence being named a “wet” battery). When Volta closed the circuit, using copper wire, he effectively made electricity flow continuously through the pile. (see images below)

VoltaBattery o-level-physics-notes-the-voltaic-pile-html-m22b4eed2

The battery was of course refined by later scientists so that they can fit in our itty-bitty smart phones and are manufactured all over the world. China, India, Brazil, the Czech Republic and South Korea are currently the world leaders in battery production, and this market is expected to grow considerably as battery consumption increases exponentially. Today there are still really cool advances happening with battery technology. With global warming and carbon emissions becoming an increasingly dire issue, powerful electric car batteries are becoming not only more efficient, but recyclable and more easily producible. Old laptop batteries, which would otherwise be taking up space in landfills, can now be used to light homes in developing countries!

So there’s my rant on batteries. Thank you Count Volta!


-Alexander Santos

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