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15 September 2014

Invention of the Rechargeable Battery

The evolution of the practical battery dates back to 1936. During this time, an English born chemist; John Frederic Daniell, developed an improved battery that was capable of producing current that was a lot steadier than the previous early batteries. The previous models were merely primary as they could not be recharged. 13 years later (in 1859), Gaston Planté who was a French physicist invented a battery that could be recharged. It adopted a lead acid system; a system that is still in use today.

Further advancements towards the rechargeable battery continued to be made. In 1899, a Swedish inventor, Waldmar Jungner, came up with a new battery that used both nickel and cadmium. The nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery used cadmium for the anode (negative electrode) and nickel for the cathode (positive electrode). Unlike the lead acid systems, the Nickel and Cadmium were quite expensive hence constrained the use of this NiCd battery. It wasn’t until 1901 that another inventor, Thomas Edison, came up with an alternative design that replaced these expensive materials with cheaper ones. Instead of cadmium, he adopted the use of iron. However, the nickel-iron battery wasn’t as successful. This was because it had significantly high self discharge abilities as well as showcasing a poor performance when used at low temperature environments. Then in 1932, two inventors; Ackermann and Shlecht came up with a sintered pole plate that played a major role towards improving the longevity of the nickel-cadmium battery as well as making it able to achieve higher load currents. Later on in 1947, Georg Neumann successfully came up with a way to seal the cell.

During the many years that followed, the nickel-cadmium battery remained the only portable rechargeable battery that could be used in various applications. Then in the 1990’s, European environmentalists got worried by the numerous environmental dangers posed by these batteries once they got disposed. Restrictions were made against the NiCd battery and consumers were requested to use the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries instead of the NiCd batteries as they were more eco-friendly. NiMH is in many ways similar to NiCd and it has been stated that the NiMH batteries could in fact be the most reliable stepping stone to the Lithium-ion (Li-ion), which has higher endurance levels.

As of today, a lot of battery related research revolves around ways of improving battery systems that are lithium based. Li-ion is hence used in various applications such as in electric vehicles and various electronic gadgets such as in digital cameras, cellular phones, medical devices, power tools and laptops. This kind of battery has been noted to be having various benefits some of which include being high in energy, easy to charge, being environmental friendly and requiring minimal maintenance.


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