Battery, also known as a cell, is a device which converts chemical energy into electrical energy.
It was Alessandro Volta who invented the first electrical battery in 1799. His work was based on the observation made by a fellow scientist named Luigi Galvani. Galvani was dissecting a frog which was fixed to a brass hook. He noticed that the frog’s leg twitched when he touched its leg with his iron scalpel. Galvani assumed that the energy responsible for the twitch came from the animal itself. He hence called it ‘animal electricity’.
Volta was not convinced with the observation made by Galvani. He performed a few experiments of his own and proved that energy was generated when two metals came in contact with one another through an electrolyte(liquid solution). He pi led disks of copper and zinc which were separated by a fabric dipped in brine(salt water). Thus he invented a ‘Voltaic pile’ which supplied electric current continuously when connected by a wire.
Numerous experiments were subsequently performed using different metals and electrolytes to produce more efficient batteries. In the 1880s, a solid electrolyte was used and the contents were enclosed in covers. These were known as ‘dry cells’
‘Primary’ batteries thus invented could not produce current once the active elements were consumed. They could not be electrically recharged. In 1859, the French physician Gaston Planté invented the first ‘Secondary’ battery. This battery, in which lead plates were immersed in sulfuric acid, was rechargeable. It allowed energy to be restored to the cell, extending the life of permanently assembled cells.