History of the battery
Although the earliest electric cells (such as the so-called "battery of Baghdad") were in existence over 2,000 years ago, the history of the battery really starts in the period when electricity was discovered and starting to be used in the 17th and 18th centuries.
People like Alessandro Volta (1745 – 1827) and Luigi Galvani (1737 – 1798) carried out the groundwork that led to an electrochemical energy storage device, and their names live on in terms like "volts' and "galvanic cell".
Around 1800 came Volta's greatest and most successful discovery, the voltaic column, the world's first working battery. Consisting of alternate copper and zinc plates, they were both saturated with acid and separated from one another with scraps of cloth. Volta discovered that certain liquids initiate chemical reactions between metals, thereby generating electrical energy.
In the early years of the 19th century, Volta worked in close collaboration with the French National Institute to further develop the battery. Napoleon Bonaparte also supported experiments such a sparking in a battery, the melting of steel wire, the discharge of an electrical pistol or the breaking down of water into its separate elements.
The first battery suitable for mass production was developed in 1802 by the chemist Dr. William Cruickshank. He took a stack of copper sheets and inserted between them zinc sheets of the same dimensions, placed them all in a sealed wooden chest and sealed it up with cement. This chest was then filled with a saline lye.
The various batteries developed at this time were all primary cells, and so could not be recharged. In 1859 the French physicist Gaston Planté used conductor plates in dilute sulphuric acid, which led to the first rechargeable battery. The secondary battery is lead-acid based, and is used to this day.
During the industrial revolution the development of electrochemical energy storage devices gathered pace. Large-scale production of rechargeable lead batteries started around 1880, when Emile Alphonse Fauré developed a process in which the lead battery reaches a high capacity after just a small number of charging cycles (forming). Fauré covered both sides of a lead sheet with a paste consisting of powdered lead and sulphuric acid; in this way he achieved a high battery capacity after only the first charge.
Over the following decades the lead battery underwent a number of significant further developments.
By introducing a variety of alloys, battery performance was greatly improved while at the same time minimising the need for maintenance. Alloys such as lead-acid-silver are especially resistant to corrosion, and the so-called AGM batteries are excellent from the point of view of their vibration-tolerant design and cycle stability.