The Columbia dry cell battery
In 1886, German scientist, Dr. Carl Gassner, was issued a German patent for the first "dry" cell. The following year, he received a U.S. patent for the dry cell battery, a forerunner to today’s Energizer battery.
Modern battery development can be traced to the work of Luigi Galvani, who observed in the 1780s that a frog’s leg twitched when connected by arcs made of iron and brass. Galvani thought the twitching originated in the leg tissue, suggesting that animals produce electricity (an assertion not definitively proved until the 1840s). Alessandro Volta, another pioneer in the field, thought that Galvani’s explanation was incorrect and that Galvani’s results arose from his use of two different metals connected by a moist conductor (a frog’s leg).
In the 1790s Volta experimented with inanimate systems consisting of metal plates connected by brine-soaked cardboard to produce electric current. To build the first modern electrical battery, Volta stacked disks of zinc and silver in pairs to form a “pile.” The “voltaic pile” was the first device producing continuous current; his work established the electrochemical principles that remain the basis of batteries used today.
Further improvements came in the 1880′s when Carl Gassner, a German scientist, invented the first dry cell. Gassner used zinc as the container to house the cell’s other components; at the same time, he used the sealed zinc container as the anode. The cathode surrounded a carbon rod. Gassner also added zinc chloride to the electrolyte, which markedly reduced corrosion of the zinc when the cell was idle, adding considerably to its shelf life.
Visit National Historic Chemical Landmarks to read more about the Columbia Dry Cell Battery.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program