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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Making batteries with lemons


Just like the potato, A lemon (or other citrus fruit) can provide a moist connection between two different metals. The acid inside forms a chemical reaction with the metals allowing electrons to flow and energy be released. Because the two metals are different, the electrons get pushed harder in one direction than the other. If the metals were the same, the push would be equal and no electrons would flow.



Submarine Batteries


Batteries are at the heart of submarines in several ways. Submarines need large amounts of electricity to operate safely under water, batteries keep the vessel alive, purify the air, power the motors, turn the propellers, and empty the flotation tanks so it can surface. However, they must be prevented from coming into contact with any seawater as this may produce toxic chlorine gas. Perhaps most importantly, if the generator or nuclear reactor was for any reason to fail or shut down, battery rooms provide manoeuvring power and the ability to surface.


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Gaston Plante


Gaston Plante is a French physicist born in 1834 who produced the first electric storage battery, the lead-acid battery, in 1859. His first model consisted of a single cell which contained two sheets of lead, separated by rubber strips, rolled into a spiral, and immersed in a solution containing about 10 percent sulfuric acid. The following year, he presented a nine-cell lead-acid battery to the Academy of Sciences which could deliver remarkably large currents. This is one of the most commercially available batteries today and commonly used in cars.


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3D Printed Battery


To create the microbattery, a custom-built 3D printer extrudes special inks through a nozzle, precisely interlacing stacks of tiny battery electrodes each less than the width of a human hair. Those inks solidify to create the battery's anode and cathode, layer by layer. A case then encloses the electrodes and the electrolyte solution is added to create a working microbattery. These innovative inks use suspended nanoparticles of the desired materials, such as compounds of lithium for batteries and silver for wires. These materials are mixed into a variety of solutions, with the resulting inks being nearly solid when undisturbed but able to flow when a certain amount of pressure is applied. Once printed, the materials return to solid form. These innovative ink designs could expand the uses of 3D printing and open up new possibilities for both medical and non-medical devices.


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