20 electrifying facts about batteries for National Battery Day
Thursday is National Battery Day, in honor of the birthday of Alessandro Volta, inventor of the voltaic pile, the basis of our modern electric battery. Volta stacked copper and zinc discs with brine-soaked cloth in between them. When he completed the circuit, the stack produced an electric current.
And there was much rejoicing.
In honor of Volta and his great invention, we present 20 great facts about batteries.
- Volta’s invention of the electric battery in 1800 was inspired by an argument over frog legs.
- The volt, our unit of measure for electrical potential, is named after Volta.
- Fun fact: Alessandro Volta was born in that awesome Italian town where George Clooney has a home, on Lake Como. The Tempio Voltiano museum that has his original voltaic pile design is in Como’s public gardens by the lake.
- Volta’s face was featured on the back of the 10,000 lire banknote, which was worth roughly $5 US. The flip side had a pic of the Clooney-adjacent Tempio Voltiano. Sadly, the Italians converted to the Euro in 1999.
- You gotta love the names Volta gave his kids: Zanino, Flaminio and Luigi.
- Although Volta invented what we now call the battery, Benjamin Franklin actually coined the term in 1748. He borrowed the term from the military to describe some Leyden jars (early ancestors of the battery that stored static electricity in water jars) as being similar to a “battery of cannon.”
- In other arenas, battery is a criminal offense involving “the unlawful physical acting upon a threat.” Which any first-year law student will tell you is different from assault, man, which is, like, the act of creating apprehension of such contact. DUH.
- A little Parthian jar found in what’s now Iraq suggests Volta may have been beaten to the punch by about 2,000 years. (That’s why we call him inventor of the modern battery.)
- The first rechargeable battery was invented in 1859 by a French guy named Gaston Planté. That first version was a spiral roll of two sheets of pure lead separated by a linen cloth in a glass jar of sulfuric acid solution. (Yikes!)
- Planté’s battery is similar to the lead-acid battery that starts your car.
- Fun dino fact: That same French dude (Gaston Planté) discovered the first fossils of a prehistoric flightless bird named Gastonis (after him) near Paris just a few years before his success with the battery. (Think ostriches and emus.)
- Lead-acid batteries are the most recycled consumer product in America. You’re welcome.
- Thomas Edison produced a Nickel-Iron battery in 1901. It’s popular in European mining operations and railway vehicles.
- Ever wonder why you can find AA, AAA, C and D batteries, but no A or B? Here’s why.
- Metals reclaimed from recycled alkaline batteries are used as rebar for concrete work. So that bridge they’re building across the river may be somewhat battery powered.
- That old tip for storing your batteries in the fridge or freezer? Not so helpful.
- NiCd batteries have the lowest cost per cycle of all rechargeable chemistries.
- But they can suffer the dreaded memory effect.
- If you use a smartphone or laptop computer, you should send John B. Goodenough a thank-you note.
- Lithium-ion batteries can get you in trouble with the FAA if you aren’t careful.
Although National Battery Day is celebrated every February 18, we at Interstate Batteries celebrate it all year long (for obvious reasons).