It’s February, So It Must Be National Battery Month
Where would we be without the humble battery?
Take a moment to think about how different the world around you might be without the invention of the battery.
In modern society, portable power isn’t something we think about every day because it’s so easily accessible. It’s incredible to think about how much we rely on this simple form of energy for our everyday lives.
From the alarm clock that awakens you in the morning to the battery in your car, batteries can be found almost anywhere. Not to mention that our computers, cell phones, digital tablets, digital cameras, game consoles, laptops, GPS systems, mobility scooters, smoke, and CO2 detectors, in addition to battery-operated drills and saws, are all dependant on power from batteries. Even those that live “off the grid” have battery-operated devices such as a flashlight and watch.
From the standard AA battery to the relatively unknown LR44 battery, everyone everywhere should embrace all things battery operated during February.
So, we celebrate National Battery Month every February and, more specifically, National Battery Day on February 18, the day we applaud and recognize just how important the simple battery is to our way of life.
Again, without the battery, where would we be? Perhaps it’s better if we never found out.
So, go out into the world with a positive attitude and change those who are negative around you by reminding them of everything the battery does on a daily basis.
Who knows, you may get a charge out of it!
Battery fact:The EPA estimates Americans purchase nearly 3 billion batteries each year. That’s a lot of power!
What exactly is a battery?
A battery is used to change chemical energy into electricity by bringing the different chemicals together in a specific order. When correctly ordered, the electrons travel from one substance to another creating an electrical current.
There are two basic types of batteries: primary batteries (disposable batteries) that are designed to be used once and discarded, and secondary batteries (rechargeable batteries), designed to be recharged and used multiple times.
Batteries come in many and various sizes, from miniature cells used to power devices such as hearing aids and wristwatches to battery banks the size of a room that delivers standby power for essential applications such as telephone exchanges and computer data centers.
Today’s lead batteries are the consequence of the investment of millions of dollars of research and subsequent improvements by the lead battery industry. Our current state-of-the-art lead-based energy storage technology serves a variety of applications, many even critical to our day-to-day survival.
Beyond affording energy storage for over 270 million vehicles in the U.S., lead batteries boost the dependability of renewable energy facilities and help safeguard the $1 trillion U.S. communications infrastructure with an uninterruptible supply of power.
Even more important, this identical technology is employed by first responders to quickly deploy lighting and other such portable electronics for emergencies.
In addition, the U.S. military counts on lead batteries to deliver onboard power to ground support vehicles to help keep our troops safe as well as power vehicles utilized for bomb detection and disposal.
Certainly, quite an array of indispensable applications!
Battery fact: In the mid-1800s, Robert Walker, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, acquired an interesting device. It was a battery designed to propel a hanging metal ball quickly back and forth, between two small bells. Today, 175 years after it was manufactured, the Oxford Electric Bell – as it is often referred to – is still ringing. In fact, it is said to have rung over 10 billion times. No one knows what the battery is composed of, and no one wants to take the device apart in order to figure it out.
A green energy future
The sustainability and reliability of lead battery technology make it quite an important instrument to help reach the goal of a green energy future. For example, advances in lead battery technology have enabled vehicles to boost fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions through start-stop know-how which is predicted to block 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year, or the equivalent output of 211,000 U.S. households.
Putting forth solutions at nearly one-third the cost of equivalent energy storage systems, lead battery technology is employed by numerous solar and wind facilities to both control the variability and boost the dependability of on-demand power. Batteries are employed to store surplus energy when demand is low and discharge it when demand is high, helping make sure there is a steady, stable supply of energy to millions of homes.
“Our industry is leading the green energy revolution,” said Jeff Elder, board president of the Battery Council International (BCI). “Over the past years, we have invested more than $50 million to improve the lifetime, performance and reliability of lead batteries, transforming their ability to fulfill the needs of ever-changing and more demanding applications. Today, we provide over 75 percent of the world’s energy storage capacity and look to play an even larger role in helping renewable energy storage facilities deliver clean energy to more people.”
Battery fact: The Energizer Bunny began as a response to its rival, the Duracell Bunny. That’s right, there were two pink bunnies, but Duracell forgot to file a renewal on its U.S. trademark. The Duracell Bunny is still used outside North America.
A bit of battery history
- While the manufacture of batteries for everyday personal use has only developed in the last 60 or so years, archeologists have found evidence of a device that may have been used to electroplate gold onto silver, much like a battery would. In 1936, during the construction of a new railway near Baghdad, a Parthian tomb was discovered. Archeologist Wilhelm Konig found a clay jar containing a copper cylinder encasing an iron rod. Konig suggested the archaeological find to be approximately 2,000 years old. Konig hinted that the artifact was probably used as a battery and his discovery became known as the Baghdad Battery, even though many current scientists are hesitant to call it a true battery.
- It is thought that the term battery to describe such a device was first used by Benjamin Franklin because the setting of the capacitator he saw reminded him of a battery of cannons.
- During the 19th century, Alessandro Volta discovered that when zinc and copper are placed into an acid or saline solution, the zinc atoms break down and flow in a current and the copper atoms barely move, which is how modern chemical batteries work. The zinc becomes a negative pole, and the copper begins the positive pole. As a result of his findings, we get the word “volt” from his name to describe electric potential.
Note: To no one’s surprise, Volta’s birthday was February 18th.
- It was William Cruickshank, a Scottish military surgeon, and chemist, who first designed a battery for mass production in 1802.
- Over time, experiments were conducted to improve the early creation of the battery, and in 1836, a British chemist named John Frederic Daniell invented the Daniell cell. This variation consisted of a copper pot which contained copper sulfate solution and was safer and less corrosive than previous models.
- In 1859, Gaston Plante developed the first practical store lead-acid battery. It was a spiral roll of two sheets of pure lead separated by a linen cloth in a glass of sulfuric acid solution. Plante’s battery is similar to the lead-acid battery we know today, primarily used in cars.
Battery fact: The lead-acid cell paved the way to the creation of the NiMH, NiCd batteries and lithium-ion batteries, other types of rechargeable batteries commonly used for items such as LED flashlights.
- Carl Gassner invented the first commercially successful dry cell battery in 1881, followed by Walmar Junger who invented the first nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery in 1899.
- Gradual improvements were made over time until, in 1896, when the National Carbon Company (later known as the Eveready Battery Company) manufactured the first commercially available battery called the Columbia. Two years later, National Carbon introduced the first D-sized battery for the first flashlight that was invented by Eveready founder Conrad Hubert. He called his invention the electric hand torch.
- In 1901, Thomas Alva Edison invented the alkaline storage battery.
- Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller, and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery in 1954.
- The first battery-operated watch was produced in 1957 by Hamilton Company.
- The first lithium-ion battery becomes available to the consumer in 1887.
- In 2009, IBM started the “Battery 500 project” to develop a new type of lithium-air battery technology, capable of powering an electric car at least 500 miles on a single charge.
Battery fact: Unlike milk, the expiration date on a box of batteries doesn’t mean they need to be tossed. The batteries may start losing some efficiency by the time tan expiration date arrives, but it still has a lot of life remaining.
Battery recycling is our responsibility
Batteries power our daily lives as consumers, so it’s our responsibility to recycle them when they reach their end-of-life. So asserts Call2Recycle, recognized as the premier product stewardship organization the North America, dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment through responsible end-of-life management. The organization asks that on the annual awareness day (February 18) consumers and organizations scour their homes and offices, especially junk drawers, closets, and garages, for used batteries, which they can bring to a Call2Recycke drop-off or start their own program.
The organization also believes that it’s not good enough to just collect batteries – it’s just as essential to optimize how much of the recycled battery is used as a secondary product.
In their recycling programs, Call2Recycle seeks to ensure that products generated by battery recycling can go back into the manufacture of new products. Their primary battery recycling efficiency rate exceeds 83 percent which is one of the highest in the world. Battery processing byproducts Cadmium, lead, cobalt, and zinc can be reclaimed and used in making new rechargeable and primary batteries, creating a unique “cradle to cradle” approach to recycling. Less than 1 percent of the battery that can’t be used for new batteries become a slag, which is an essential input into the construction of roads and bridges.
No portion of any battery collected is ever landfilled!
Battery fact: Batteries work due to a chemical reaction inside the battery that causes electrons to flow from the negative to the positive terminal of the battery. When all the chemicals inside the battery have reacted, the battery is spent. When you recharge a battery, you’re essentially reversing the chemical reaction using electrical energy.
We truly take for granted the significance of batteries in our lives. From lighting our homes, providing hours of entertainment, giving us transportation, to even saving our lives, these devices deserve to be recognized.
Battery Day can be celebrated in any number of ways!
You can use the day to check batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and any number of remotes. You can take your used batteries to a recycling center. Many big-name retailers offer recycling kiosks inside their stores. Or better yet, switch to rechargeable ones.
You might use the day to learn more about batteries and how they work. Let’s face it, batteries might not be the most fascinating or exciting devices in the world, but without them, our lives would be very different. Batteries have literally transformed the world and have allowed modern society to be the wireless one it is today.