You’ve Come a Long Way, Battery

In 1799 the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta created the first battery that emitted a steady, lasting current. He created it by alternating zinc and silver disks, one on top of the other,  that were separated by saltwater soaked cardboard disks. This wet cell battery originally was named the “artificial electrical organ” for its association with the popular idea that electricity was generated by animal tissue, such as that from the electric torpedo fish. The invention was later named the “Voltaic Pile.” His colleagues further immortalized him by naming the units of electromagnetic force that emitted from the contraption “volts.” Volta’s invention was the first modern success in battery technology, but it still wasn't able to sustain an electrical current long enough to power objects.

In 1836 a quite different style of battery called the Daniell Cell was invented by the Englishman John F. Daniell. The utilization of electrolytes in his battery provided longer lasting currents that enabled objects such as telephones and doorbells to operate. Today, we not only are able to power small objects and devices, but larger more consumptive ones like vehicles and homes. We also use batteries to store energy from green sources such as wind and solar. Batteries are an indispensable technology, one that is constantly evolving and advancing, one that is trying to find a healthy relationship between effective energy storage and responsible practices. We can all do our part in supporting this technology as well as our environment by recycling batteries that need recycling and purchasing less toxic, rechargeable batteries for use in our smaller devices.