How It all Started for Battery Storage Technology
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
History of Battery Technology
The 18th century witnessed a number of major events like formation of Kingdom of Prussia, declaration of independence of United States, French revolution and beginning of Industrialization. And, amidst the chaos, Alessandro Volta, an obscure Italian physicist went on to invent the first practical battery. Alessandro Volta debunked the idea of animal electricity earlier conceptualized by Luigi Galvani and proved that contact of two dissimilar metals involved in frog experiment (the brass hook and the scalpel) that produced the electric charge not the frog.
Although, in 1800, first battery (Voltaic pile) became available successfully allowing electric current to flow seamlessly when connected with wires. But it was not until late 20th century that rapid commercialization of battery technology kicked off. Nobody would have thought in their wildest dreams that a device which had quite rough and cumbersome beginnings would go onto become the most influential device of 21st century.
The boom of battery technology started with following first commercial applications; Hamilton 500 first electric watch in 1957, first battery-powered cell phone Motorola’s DynaTAC prototype in 1973, the Japan’s Sony Walkman in 1979, Nintendo’s gameboy in 1989, and Tesla Roadster 2004 and countless others . And, our reliance on batteries seems to be on a never ending upward spiral. Starting from our homes, 20 years ago we barely had one battery in our homes today, we have more than 20. We have batteries in our watch, clock, shaver, toothbrush, speakers, electric toys, cell phones, electric cars and so on.
Construction of a Battery Cell
In order to understand batteries, let’s dive into more details about the construction and initial constitution of the battery. A typical battery cell consists of two electrodes (cathode and anode). Ideally the electrodes should be two metals, one of which could easily lose electrons and other could gain those electrons. And every time a metal loses an electron and become ion, it needs an electrolyte (usually liquid) to act as a medium of travel between two electrodes and also a separator in the middle (a material placed to prevent shorting and conducts ions not electrons) to make battery work seamlessly for longer cycles. During charging, the ions move from the cathode to the anode; and when the battery is connected to some loads or powering some appliance, the ions travel from the anode to the cathode.
Different metals have different electric potentials resulting in cell voltages typically in the 1.0 to 3.6 V range. Battery cells could be arranged in series and parallel to increases the voltage and the supply of current respectively, depending on the application and required currents and voltages, all the way to the Megawatt sizes.