Toward the end of the 1800s, giant generators and transformers were built. Transmission lines were installed and electricity was made available to humanity to produce light, heat and movement. In the early twentieth century, the use of electricity was further refined. The invention of the vacuum tube enabled generating controlled signals, amplifications and sound. Soon thereafter, radio was invented, which made wireless communication possible.
In 1899, Waldmar Jungner from Sweden invented the nickel-cadmium battery, which used nickel for the positive electrode and cadmium for the negative. Two years later, Edison produced an alternative design by replacing cadmium with iron. Due to high material costs compared to dry cells or lead acid storage batteries, the practical applications of the nickel-cadmium and nickel-iron batteries were limited.
It was not until Shlecht and Ackermann invented the sintered pole plate in 1932 that large improvements were achieved. These advancements were reflected in higher load currents and improved longevity. The sealed nickel-cadmium battery, as we know it toady, became only available when Neumann succeeded in completely sealing the cell in 1947.
From the early days on, humanity became dependent on electricity, a product without which our technological advancements would not have been possible. With the increased need for mobility, people moved to portable power storage — first for wheeled applications, then for portable and finally wearable use. As awkward and unreliable as the early batteries may have been, our descendants may one day look at today’s technology in a similar way to how we view our predecessors’ clumsy experiments of 100 years ago.
History of Battery Development
1600 Gilbert (England) Establishment electrochemistry study 1791 Galvani (Italy) Discovery of ‘animal electricity’ 1800 Volta (Italy) Invention of the voltaic cell 1802 Cruickshank (England) First electric battery capable of mass production 1820 Ampère (France) Electricity through magnetism 1833 Faraday (England) Announcement of Faraday’s Law 1836 Daniell (England) Invention of the Daniell cell 1859 Planté (France) Invention of the lead acid battery 1868 Leclanché (France) Invention of the Leclanché cell 1888 Gassner (USA) Completion of the dry cell 1899 Jungner (Sweden) Invention of the nickel-cadmium battery 1901 Edison (USA) Invention of the nickel-iron battery 1932 Shlecht & Ackermann (Germany) Invention of the sintered pole plate 1947 Neumann (France) Successfully sealing the nickel-cadmium battery Mid 1960 Union Carbide (USA) Development of primary alkaline battery Mid 1970 Development of valve regulated lead acid battery 1990 Commercialization nickel-metal hydride battery 1992 Kordesch (Canada) Commercialization reusable alkaline battery 1999 Commercialization lithium-ion polymer 2001 Anticipated volume production of proton exchange membrane fuel cell