How Far Battery Technology Has Come & How Much Further It Needs toProgress Brad Whittaker1709140528/12/2017 AbstractAs technology has progressed within society batteries havebeen an integral part to these new wonders, but as they are continuing todevelop thus requiring larger storage available from cells with less chargetime and longer life. This report will cover: the history of the subject, thechemistry behind voltaic cells, and new developments in the field and what thiscould mean to the forefront of technology. Creating Electricityfrom a Chemical ReactionVoltaic Cells function in the inverse of electrolysis.
Inthat a Reduction-Oxidation reaction takes place in order to change chemicalenergy into electrical energy. This occurs with oxidation at the negative anodewith the reduction reaction occurring at the positive cathode. These twohalf-reactions are joined via an electrolyte and a porous separator.An example of these half-reactions within a Daniell Cellwould be be a Copper anode in a Cu2+ solution and a Silver cathodein an Ag+ solution1,2. Anode: Cu(s) -> Cu2+(aq) + 2e-Cathode: Ag+(aq)+e- -> Ag(s) This is the fundamental chemistry behind batteries.
HistoryThe history of storage cells within mankind dates tosurprisingly far back; considering electrochemistry itself wasn’t truly put onthe science map until the 1830’s. In fact, the oldest battery to be discoveredwas found in Iraq, this primitive battery model was no more than a clay jarencasing copper wrapped around an iron rod. This jar once filled with vinegaror another form of electrolyte would give off an electromotive force ofapproximately 1.1 volts 1. This isn’t a huge charge but forsomething made over 2000 years ago is incredibly impressive.
However, from thispoint onwards, the world of electrochemistry would have to wait nearly 2millennia for more research and breakthroughs on batteries3. The next step towards what is now known as a battery, thefirst western battery was created in 1782 by a scientist by the name ofAllesandro Volta. Volta created the ‘voltaic pile’ which was comprised of zincand silver disks piled on top of each other in conjunction with a weak acidsolution or salt soaked cloth to separate the disks. This creation and hiscontribution to the field earned the SI unit known as Volts to be named afterhim. In the next 50 years, Humphrey Davy would recreate Volta’s ‘voltaic pile’,but a main breakthrough in the form of Michael Faraday’s theories in thefundamentals of electrolysis and voltaic cells as aforementioned this breakthroughhelped to progress the area of electrochemistry and battery development 3,4.In 1836 a new type of cell was produced by chemist JohnDaniell. This cell resembled more what we know today as a battery due to itsmain section comprised of a solution with two solid parts of different metalsto create a charge. The field of storage cells began to expand at a fast pacewith different scientists attempting to improve the cells with their own ideasand designs.
These new models of battery started gaining mainstream use withinsociety such as Grove’s ‘nitric acid battery’ (1839) and a redesigned versionof Leclanché’s cells whichoriginated in 1866 but after other scientist’s intervention became thefoundation of the ‘dry cell’. After changes throughout the 1800s such as somechemists using lead within their cells such as Planté andlater Faure et al. The progression from Planté’s design gave the new century power for thefirst hand held torches (1909) and personal radios (1920’s). On the cusp of thenew century Swedish scientist Waldemar Jungner created the first alkalibattery, the nickel-cadmium, which after some development would become one ofthe most popular batteries for portable devices but due to cadmiums detrimentaleffect on the environment would be scrapped from use3,4,5. In a similar fashion, at thestart of the 1900s Thomas Edison believed that the Planté cells had flaws in the way ofacid on metal contact and that the lead within the cells were cumbersome. Fromobserving these flaws Edison created the ‘Edison Cell’, a battery composed of:A Nickel oxide cathode with and Iron anode utilising Potassium hydroxide as anelectrolyte.
These cells still have some industrial uses today due to itsdurability and long-lasting life. The next major change in voltaic cells was inthe 1950’s in which the first rechargeable cell for general use was produced.This cell however had a large hindrance in which if it fully discharged then itwould be ruined.
It would be around 40 years before the first reliable rechargeablebattery would surface for public use that was greener than that of ni-cad cells3,4,5.This battery would be the start of the technology we utilisedaily in the present. This was the lithium ion battery. This battery wasproduced for phones but was recalled almost instantaneously due to shortingduring charge which then lead to the cells sometimes exploding. A problem thatwas later fixed and then also resurfaced in the mid 2010’s when Samsungsmartphones had the problems of bursting into flames resulting in the recall ofthe device. This battery functions by the lithium ions within the cell movingback and forth between the two electrodes, so moving towards the cathode duringdischarge and back towards the anode during charge from and external power source.These batteries are within just about every portable device in the present dayand now they are being used to power cars by companies such as Tesla. But evenwith the new Tesla Model 3 the battery given as standard will allow the car totravel 212 miles before having to stop for 45 minutes to ‘supercharge’ this maybe a step in the correct direction but could it be better? FutureThe futureis looking bright on battery research as it has now become not of scientificinterest with economic and environmental interest peaking.
In 2013 StanfordUniversity students created a lower costing more power dense cell. This type ofcell is a metal-air cell is a potential candidate for the future of batteries,however now due to difficulties with the electrolyte, anode and cathode due tothe nature of the cell it could be a few more years until it is perfected andmass-produced. As far as future energy is concerned maybe a battery alone wouldnot just be enough, utilizing renewable energy in conjunction with a high powerdense cell to create car windows are transparent photovoltaic cells to helpreduce the amount of charges required or the same technology used on a phonescreen. Granted the technology is not quite up to the standard with thebatteries still in development and the highest photovoltaic cell efficiency of41.1% under concentrated sunlight. But within the next 10 years at the rateresearch is moving it could be possible.