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How batteries have evolved into a breakthrough technology

Auth Anushka Agarwal | May 13,2020

Batteries come forth are the most evolving technologies in the current scenario. They are ubiquitous in nature and are almost indispensable for us. A rather simple invention has powered a long and successful history for the batteries.

What is the battery?

A battery is a device that stores chemical energy which is then converted into electrical energy. These batteries are like small chemical reactors that produce energetic electrons that flow through the device to convert one form of energy to another. Batteries are not new to this world. They have been a stored energy substitute for the world for quite some time now. The first use of battery was for electroplating, pain relief, or a religious tingle. The term, ‘battery’ was first used by Benjamin Franklin in 1749 when conducting experiments using a pair of linked capacitors.

The first battery was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. He constructed cathode and anode using Copper and zinc separated by a cloth soaked in salty water. The wires connecting the two ends could produce a continuously stable current. Each cell could produce 0.76 volts. If the number of cells stacked together is increased, the obtained voltage can also be increased.

One of the earliest batteries ever constructed was the lead-acid battery. It was invented in 1859 and the technology is stilled being used to start most of the combustion engine cars even today. This is one of the oldest examples of rechargeable battery.

As of today, batteries come in various shapes and sizes. They are based on megawatt of sizes that store power from the solar farms or substations to guarantee stable supply in cities and villages. Batteries come with several different chemistries. The basic cell voltage lasts from 1.0 to 3.6V. As the number of stacked cells increases, so does the voltage. If these cells are connected in parallel, that enhances the supply of the current as well. The combination of series and parallel cells in a battery is used to add up the required voltages and currents.

How do batteries work?

A battery when connected to a device, generates a chemical reaction that produces extra electrons as the reaction continues. One example of such is the rusting of iron. The oxidation of iron produces electrons. These electrons are given up to oxygen, to produce iron oxide. This, therefore, results in the oxidation of iron popularly called as rusting.

The standard construction of a battery consists of two metals forming the cathode and anode. They are then separated by the porous insulator for the chemical reaction to occur. The chemical energy is actually stored in the atoms and the bonds of the compounds which results in electrons movement from one metal to another. One metal region loses electrons while the other gains. A conducting fluid-like salt or water is used to transfer soluble ions from one metal to the other during the reaction. This conducting fluid is called the electrolyte.

The metal that loses electrons is called an anode, and the metal that accepts it is called the cathode. This movement of an electron from anode to cathode is what keeps the electronic devices running.

The different types of batteries available in the market

Batteries are of two types; primary and rechargeable batteries. A primary battery is one that can conduct the flow of electrons from anode to cathode only once, rendering it useless after single use. These batteries are also called single-use batteries and typically cause environmental pollution and generate a lot of waste.

Then comes the second type of battery called as rechargeable batteries. These batteries have the power of reversing the chemical reaction taking place from anode to cathode. These batteries come with recharge cycles stating the number of times the chemical reaction can be reversed. One of the most common rechargeable batteries is the nickel-cadmium battery. They use alkali as an electrolyte. Then came the nickel-metal hydrogen batteries, developed in 1989, and had a longer lifespan than the NiCd batteries. These batteries need to be charged. They can reverse the chemical reaction but are highly sensitive to overcharging and overheating.

Portable solutions like mobile phones and laptops need a powerful and most compact form of stored energy. As the applications of the batteries increase, a larger quantity of cells is being connected for maximum output.

The future of the battery technology

Batteries are being used for major considerations now, running motors, supplying electricity, and running cars. As the importance and applications of batteries increase, so does the need for innovation and more powerful electrical solutions. Where batteries were used only for running meager devices like clocks and toys, they are now drawn towards bigger devices.

There are several experiments taking place in the lithium-ion batteries market and their power to run automobiles are being brought into public sight. As for rechargeable solutions, Smartcell batteries offer the most versatile and effective solutions with high recharge cycles.

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