History of the Battery

In the beginning there was the “Bagadad Battery” – or was it?
During the excavation work of a Parthian settlement on the hill Khujut Rabuah near today’s Iraqi capital Baghdad, an approx. 14 cm high clay vessel was found in 1936, which contained a copper cylinder and a small iron rod. The iron rod was held in position by asphalt in such a way that it dipped into the copper cylinder without them touching each other. If you were to add an electrolytic liquid here, you would have a functioning battery. The fact that the iron rod is heavily oxidized also indicates this use.
On the other hand, according to the current state of science, electricity was still unknown 2,000 years ago. So there is no final scientific appraisal yet.
After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iraqi National Museum was looted and the Baghdad battery stolen.


Let’s jump to the year 1780. The Italian doctor Luigi Galvani noticed that a frog’s leg twitches every time it comes into contact with iron and copper. He assumes that it is an electrical effect.
The first battery of the modern era was built by Alessandro Volta in 1800. To do this, he alternately layered copper and zinc discs with paper soaked in salt solution in between. If you connected the discs with a wire, the column supplied energy.
If you connect several such galvanic cells in series you can increase the voltage. This is how the battery got its name. It is borrowed from the military language. While it is about combining guns to form a “gun battery”, in electrical terms it means connecting several cells together.
The next major development was that of the accumulator. Johann Wilhelm Ritter built the Ritter’s column in 1802. While the Volta’s column is a primary battery that generates energy once through a chemical reaction until it is discharged, the Ritter’s column is a secondary battery that must first be charged and then emit the stored energy again.

Luigi Galvani
Alessandro Volta
Voltaic Pile
Johann Wilhelm Ritter

There are two basic types of batteries. The wet batteries with liquid electrolyte, which are no longer in use today. They could only be operated in an upright position, and the dry batteries with solid or gel-like electrolyte. Carl Gassner patented the dry battery in 1887. These batteries, which are still in use today, have the advantage of being able to be used in any position.
The secondary batteries are now much more widespread than the primary batteries. The two most common representatives are the lead-acid battery and the lithium-ion battery.
Because of their low costs, primary batteries are still used in small devices with low energy requirements, with the alkali-manganese battery being the most important representative.