Skip to main content

Squeezing More Life Out of Your Notebook's Battery Part I

A Brief Summation Of Battery History And Battery Types

In 1800, with his discovery of so-called "voltaic elements," the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta laid the groundwork for the use of batteries to deliver electrical energy.

Volta in an experiment at the French National Institute in November, 1800. He discovered the voltaic element, a non-rechargeable battery. This is the original ancestor of the alkaline battery.

In 1859, the French scientist Gaston Plante discovered the lead-acid battery, the first rechargeable battery type, also known as an accumulator. Non-rechargeable batteries like voltaic cells are known as primary cells, while rechargeables fall under the secondary cell category. Batteries also incorporate two electrodes, which transfer electrons through an electrolyte. Various battery types may be distinguished primarily by the types of materials used for their electrodes and the composition of the electrolyte. A secondary method for distinguishing among batteries is their physical shape. The most often used designations in this category include cylindrical or button cells, along with the so-called prismatic cells most often found in mobile telephones.

The Rechargeable NiCd (nickel-cadmium) Battery

A chemist named Junger developed the first alkaline battery in 1899. He used nickel for the positive electrode, and cadmium for the negative electrode. A potassium hydroxide solution served as its electrolyte. The alkaline nature of that electrolyte also provided the inspiration for this battery's name or type designation. Nearly 50 years later (1946) Neumann developed the first sealed NiCad battery.

Until the early 1990s the NiCd (pronounced "nie cad" where "nie" rhymes with "die") battery remained the most widely used of rechargeable battery for consumer products. But in the notebook arena, this kind of battery is no longer used today. That's because the intervening years have witnessed the development of newer, more powerful types of batteries.