Fun Battery Facts


Alessandro Volta is an Italian scientist who invented the electric battery, providing the first source of continuous current. The invention of the battery came about whilst trying to prove another scientist, Luigi Galvani wrong. Luigi Galvani discovered that the contact of two different metals with the muscle of a frog resulted in the generation of an electric current. However, Volta believed there was no difference between animal electricity and electricity. Animals merely responded to normal electricity.

By 1797, Volta now knew that a moist connection was needed between two metals to produce what we now call voltage. By connecting up more and more pairs of metals connected with moist card, Volta found that he could produce ever higher voltages, leading to significant electrical currents. As a result the electrical battery was born, a crucial invention in todays technology based civilisation.


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As with the frog used in Galvani’s experiments, a potato can provide a moist connection between two metals. The acid inside a potato forms a chemical reaction with the metals allowing electrons to flow and energy be released. In 2012 the total world potato production was estimated at 364.808.768 tonnes, but is it a viable power source ?


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Fairbanks is Alaska’s second-largest city and a year round visitor destination with nice summer weather, long days and plenty of activities to enjoy. However, with its remote location and temperatures reaching as low as -51 degrees Celsius during the winter, supplying reliable power can be difficult. With power failures being experienced every month and more serious failures possibly resulting in life threatening conditions the world’s largest storage battery was built.


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The Airbus A320 is one aircraft in 4 different sizes. The A320 family consists of short- to medium-range, narrow-body, commercial passenger twin-engine jet airliners and is the most successful and versatile aircraft family ever. It’s status as the world’s best-selling aircraft of all time is yet to be beat. Like other large aircrafts, Nickel Cadmium (NiCD) batteries are used weighing just under 26kgs each. As the electrolyte used in these batteries could eat away at the metal structure of the air frame they are stored in reinforced metal casing. Compared to Lead-acid or Alkaline batteries, the voltage of NiCD batteries stays the same throughout the discharge process. They also have a low internal resistance making them capable of discharging and charging quickly.


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Battery Fact 5 - Lithium


Lithium has many industrial uses. It goes into glasses, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, and aluminium and magnesium alloys. But the highest potential for growth is in the battery market. We are surrounded by devices utilising small and lightweight lithium batteries, including laptops and mobile phone, with demand for lithium batteries rising rapidly due to the increasing use of electric vehicles and for storage of renewable power.

Lithium is usually extracted from lithium minerals that can be found in igneous rocks, seawater and from lithium chloride salts that can be found in brine pools. With the concentration of lithium in seawater being too low to make it economic, extracting lithium from brine is currently the cheapest method. As a result there are many deposits of igneous rocks that are not currently being mined. Sources in Chile, Argentina and Austrlia are facing expansion challenges which makes new sources of supply ever more important and crucial to the growth of environmentally friendly technologies.


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Batteries in Space


Electricity producing batteries are a vital part of daily life on Earth and in space, however, all batteries are limited in life, and over time, even rechargeable batteries will eventually fail. Many of the current power systems available are heavy, bulky, inefficient and cannot function properly in the extreme environments experienced in space. Batteries required for use in space must withstand shock, extreme hot and cold conditions, radiation, vibration, and acceleration and be capable of operating in a hard vacuum without leaking or exploding. Due to the eight to nine grams of propellant needed to get one gram of mass off the Earth’s surface batteries should also provide maximum electrical energy in minimum volume and weight. As a result all batteries and battery systems are tested in chambers that provide space environments for rigorous space environment testing.


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