Batteries. They are in so many everyday items. Your phone, tablet, and laptop. Your iPod and your Fitbit. Your watch and your flashlight. Your car and your jet. They are everywhere and yet oddly invisible. How many of us think about the battery when we turn on our car. I would tend to think that there are not many out there who do. Until the car doesn’t start one morning. The one morning that you are running late to your racquetball game. The coldest morning in the past 14 years. And of course, it is Sunday, so all of the battery shops are closed (not that this has happened to me). All of a sudden, we are very conscious of our car’s battery.
We can break batteries up into two groups: Primary and secondary cells. Primary cells are the basic, disposable batteries that I grew up using. They serve their purpose, although they seemed to deplete very quickly with certain uses (I’m talking about you, Game Boy). The downside that I remember was the cost of constantly replacing them. Secondary cells, or rechargeable batteries, are the answer. They have existed since 1859, when , a physicist from France, invented the lead-acid battery. The way this worked was by passing a reverse current through the battery, which undoes the chemical reaction which had caused the depletion. Although his battery was able to deliver a big, rechargeable current, it could not do so for a long time, being that the dioxide cathode did not have a lot of active material for use in the necessary chemical reaction. It was good however, for applications that required a short burst of powerful electricity. Lead-acid batteries are still used nowadays by some utility companies to deliver temporary high voltage electricity during times of peak demand to minimize outages.