History of the Battery

The very first battery to be developed appears to have designed in 1800 by Alessandro Volta. Volta was a professor of natural philosophy at the university of Pavia in Italy. Known as the Voltaic Pile, the construction of this apparatus was the first known to produce continuous electricity. The Voltaic Pile was constructed of silver and zinc discs separated by a piece of pasteboard, or other spongy material, and soaked in salt water, lye, and other alkaline solutions. A current was produced by touching the ends of a conductive metal to the top disc of the silver and to the bottom disc of the zinc.


In the 1860's George Leclanche of France developed what would be the forerunner of the world's first widely used battery-the zinc carbon cell. The anode was a zinc and mercury alloyed rod. (Zinc, the anode in Volta's original cell, proved to be on the best metals for the job.) The cathode was a porous cup of crushed manganese dioxide and some carbon. Into the mix was inserted a carbon rod to act as the current collector. Both anode and the cathode cup were plunged into a liquid solution oaf ammonium chloride, which acted as the electrolyte. The system was called a "wet cell".


Though Leclanche's cell was rugged and inexpensive, it was eventually replaced by the improved "dry cell" in the 1880's. The anode became the zinc can containing the cell, and the electrolyte became a paste rather than a liquid-basically the zinc carbon cell that is known today.