National Battery Day is this week, so let’s recharge our knowledge of how batteries work in our lives. The simple fact that we generally take batteries for granted reveals that they're everywhere and invisible. We don’t have to think about them except when we need a replacement — and then we better have the right one waiting in some drawer.
First things first: What would you do without your smartphone? When the battery gets low, you race for a charger. Did you watch TV or stream last night? Batteries power your remote controls for entertainment and beyond. Did you drive to work today? Say thank you to the battery that locks and unlocks your doors and the one that helps your car or truck to start. Ditto for the batteries in the handy flashlights we grab when the lights go out or the ones that power the cute little robot your child enjoys so much. I haven’t even mentioned our laptops and wireless mouses — or is it mice? What would we do without those?
The list goes on and on. But in the jewelry business, we focus on watch batteries — tiny wonders that can keep a watch going for five years at a time. And we also stock hearing aid and other batteries. We recommend investing in a battery kit to be sure you have the right size when a customer walks in and because it keeps you organized. Each drawer comes labeled, making it easy to keep track of stock and reorder on time.
Should you choose Renata or Energizer? We offer both. One customer swears by one, while another swears by the other so, choose according to your experience. Beyond battery kits, we sell multi-packs, strips, and singles, giving you all the flexibility you need to have stock and control how much you invest.
Since we associate batteries with modern life, most people don't know that their developments began long ago. These facts provide stories you can share with battery customers.
ANCIENT BATTERIES Discovered in what was once Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), the first batteries date back more than 2,000 years. In the early 1900s, archeologists found five-inch clay jars either during a dig or in the basement of a museum in Bagdad: tales vary. These curious objects housed copper cylinders that enclosed iron rods. The jars showed signs of corrosion, most likely vinegar or wine used as an electrolyte. Since then, scientists have built such devices, and sure enough, they carry a current, though not a big one. Archeologists think ancient people may have used the batteries to treat pain, electroplate, or religious rituals. We'll never really know.*
AN ELECTRIC PERSONALITY We know Benjamin Franklin as one of our country’s founders and a man of extraordinary scientific innovation. Remember the story of lightning striking his kite? He had a passion for electricity that drove him to invent the lightning rod. It kept houses from burning down when struck by lightning. Memorably, he introduced four words related to electricity: battery, positive, negative, and charge.
WHAT'S IN A NAME? In 1800, Alexandro Volta, an Italian physicist, invented the first true battery stacking copper and zinc discs separated with cloths soaked in salty water. Wires connected to each end produced a stable current of 0.76 — you guessed it — volts! However, this was not long-lived power. When the materials used their limited interactions, the battery died. We needed something more long-lasting.
An illustration from Volta’s 1800 paper. Pieces of silver (A) and zinc (Z) connected by metal strips and sitting in cups of dilute acid will produce electricity. This could be tested by putting a finger in each of the end cups. You would get an electric shock. Unlike Galvani’s version, no animals need be hurt in this production, except for the human tester who gets a mild electric shock.
The 1800s were devoted to creating increasingly better batteries driven by the growing awareness of what they could accomplish.
In 1820, John Frederic Daniell created the first battery to use mercury, significantly more powerful than the Voltaic Cell. Later in the 1800s, the Daniell Cell powered telegraph systems.
In 1859, the lead-acid battery was developed and used to light railway cars. Then came the carbon-zinc battery, the first dry cell developed by German physicist Carl Gassner which was more portable and more powerful. In 1899, a Swedish scientist, Waldemar Jungner, invented the nickel-cadmium battery — the first rechargeable battery. It had better energy density but was much more expensive. He commercialized it in Sweden in 1910, however, it did not appear in the US until 1946.
• Though lithium batteries only became commercially available in the 1990s, Gilbert Newton Lewis started to work on one in 1912.
• In the 1950s, alkaline batteries emerged as scientists realized that their zinc-carbon base supplied more energy at higher currents.
These facts give the merest outline of battery history. Today new developments emerge more frequently. Fortunately, we find ever-more fascinating uses for them.
The Tools Tech Team experts are here for you. Give them a call at 800-877-7777, option 1.