All About Battery Energy

Contributing towards global net zero

History of the Battery

The need to create one energy form from another has been around since the prehistoric times. Batteries represent one of the results of human efforts to achieve that.

Back in prehistoric times, by using chemical reactions, humans were producing fire. What chemicals, you may ask? Well, trees. And what chemical reactions? That would be fire. So, with the use of a chemical process (burning, which is otherwise scientifically known as “combustion”), a chemical substance (wood), would produce a form of energy (heat).

Historically, humans were very intrigued by electricity. Even as early as 600BC, the ancient Greeks were aware of static electricity, the phenomenon where certain objects can attract or repel each other after being rubbed or charged. Even though he wasn’t fully aware of electricity’s potential, the Greek philosopher and scientist Thales observed that rubbing materials like amber on fur would make the amber attract feathers.

History of the Battery - Ancient Greeks rubbing Amber on fur to produce static electricity

Ancient Greeks rubbing Amber on fur to produce static electricity

Amber in ancient Greek was called “ēlektron”, and this is where the words “electricity”, “electronic” and “electric” come from. The ancient Greeks were also familiar with electric fish, such as the electric ray or the electric eel (torpedo fish). They noticed that these fish could generate tingling sensations or even shocks when touched, and they recorded observations about the electric properties of these fish.

Until the end of the 18th century, it was believed that electricity could only be produced by chemical reactions within the bodies of living organisms. This belief was disproved by the famous Italian physicist and pioneer in the field of electricity, Alessandro Volta. On the 6th of June 1800, Volta created a device called the Voltaic Pile. It was a stack of metal discs, with a piece of cardboard soaked in salty water in between each disk pair. When Volta connected the top and bottom discs of the pile with a wire, something interesting happened. The metal discs and the salty water started to react chemically, creating a flow of tiny particles called electrons. By connecting a wire to the top and bottom of the pile, he was able to make energy travel through the wire and power things with a continuous flow of electricity. This is when the first battery was born! To honour Alessandro Volta for his invention, the unit of measurement of electric potential is called a Volt.

History of the Battery - The Volta Pile, the first form of battery ever produced

The Volta Pile, the first form of battery ever produced

Ever since then, a wide range of batteries have been created by choosing different chemicals, but the main principle remains the same. Today, we have what can someone could call a “battery race”, where companies and scientists experiment with different materials in an effort to improve the capacity, longevity and efficiency of batteries, while trying to find chemicals that are more easily available, require less energy to mine or harvest, and can be disposed without causing harm to the environment.