History and Working Principle of Batteries

Working Principle of Batteries

In the modern era, electrical energy is normally converted from mechanical energy, solar energy, and chemical energy etc. A battery is a device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy. The first battery was developed by Alessandro Volta in the year of 1800. In the year 1836, John Frederic Daniell, a British chemist developed the Daniell cell as an improved version of the voltaic cell. From that time until today, the battery has been the most popular source of electricity in many daily life applications.

In our daily life, we generally use two types of battery, one of them is which can be used once before it gets totally discharged. Another type of battery is rechargeable which means it can be used multiple times by recharging it externally. The former is called primary battery and the later is called secondary battery.

Batteries can be found in different sizes. A battery may be as small as a shirt button or may be so big in size that a whole room will be required to install a battery bank. With this variation of sizes, the battery is used anywhere from small wrist watches to a large ship. battery symbol We often see this symbol in many diagrams of electrical and electronics network. This is the most popularly used symbol for battery. The bigger lines represent positive terminal of the cells and smaller lines represent negative terminal of the cells connected in the battery.

We are often confused about the terms battery cell and battery. We generally refer a battery as a single electro-chemical cell. But literally, battery does not mean that. Battery means a number of electro-chemical cells connected together to meet a certain voltage and current level. Although there may be a single cell battery, literally, battery and cell are different.

History of Battery

In the year of 1936 during the middle of summer, an ancient tomb was discovered during construction of a new railway line near Bagdad city in Iraq. The relics found in that tomb were about 2000 years old. Among these relics, there were some clay jars or vessels which were sealed at the top with pitch. An iron rod, surrounded by a cylindrical tube made of wrapped copper sheet was projected out from this sealed top.

When these pots were filled with an acidic liquid, they produced a potential difference of around 2 volts between the iron and copper. These clay jars are suspected to be 2000 year old battery cells. luigi galvani experiment fr In 1786, Luigi Galvani, an Italian anatomist and physiologist was surprised to see that when he touched a dead frog’s leg with two different metals, the muscles of the legs contracted. He could not understand the actual reason why, otherwise he would have been known as the first inventor of the battery cell. He thought the reaction might be due to a property of the tissues.voltiac pile After that, Alessandro Volta realized that same phenomenon could be created by using cardboard soaked in salt water instead of frog's leg. He sandwiched a copper disc and a zinc disc with a piece of cardboard soaked in salt water in between them and found a potential difference between the copper and zinc. After that in 1800, he developed the first Voltaic Pile (battery) constructed of alternating copper and zinc discs with pieces of cardboard soaked in brine between them. This system could produce measurable current. Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile was considered the first "wet battery cell". Thus, the history of battery began. daniell cell The main problem with the Voltaic pile was that, it could not deliver current for a long time. This problem was solved by a British inventor John F. Daniell in 1836. He invented a more developed version of the battery cell which is known as the Daniell cell. Here in this cell, one zinc rod is immersed in zinc sulfate in one container and one copper rod is immersed in copper (II) sulfate in another container. The solutions of these two containers are bridged by a U shaped salt bridge. A Daniell cell could produce 1.1 volt and this type of battery lasted much longer than the Voltaic pile. In 1839, the fuel cell was designed by Sir William Robert Grove, a discoverer and man of science. He mixed hydrogen and oxygen within an electrolyte solution, and created electricity and water. The fuel cell did not deliver enough electricity, but it is helpful.

Working Principle of Battery

To understand the basic principle of battery properly, first, we should have some basic concept of electrolytes and electrons affinity. Actually, when two dissimilar metals or metallic compounds are immersed in an electrolyte, there will be a potential difference produced between these metals or metallic compounds.

It is found that, when some specific compounds are added to water, they get dissolved and produce negative and positive ions. This type of compound is called an electrolyte. The popular examples of electrolytes are almost all kinds of salts, acids, and bases etc.

The energy released during accepting an electron by a neutral atom is known as electron affinity. As the atomic structure for different materials are different, the electron affinity of different materials will differ. If two different kinds of metals or metallic compounds are immersed in the same electrolyte solution, one of them will gain electrons and the other will release electrons. Which metal (or metallic compound) will gain electrons and which will lose them depends upon the electron affinities of these metals or metallic compounds. The metal with low electron affinity will gain electrons from the negative ions of the electrolyte solution. On the other hand, the metal with high electron affinity will release electrons and these electrons come out into the electrolyte solution and are added to the positive ions of the solution. In this way, one of these metals or compounds gains electrons and another one loses electrons. As a result, there will be a difference in electron concentration between these two metals. This difference of electron concentration causes an electrical potential difference to develop between the metals. This electrical potential difference or emf can be utilized as a source of voltage in any electronics or electrical circuit. This is a general and basic principle of battery.

All batteries cells are based only on this basic principle. Let’s discuss one by one. As we said earlier, Alessandro Volta developed the first battery cell, and this cell is popularly known as the simple voltaic cell. This type of simple cell can be created very easily. Take one container and fill it with diluted sulfuric acid as the electrolyte. Now immerse zinc and one copper rod in the solution and connect them externally by an electric load.