BU-102: Battery Developments

Find out about battery development from the 1700s to today, and who is behind the inventions.

Inventions are well documented and credit goes to the dignified inventors. Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) invented the Franklin stove, bifocal eyeglasses and the lightning rod. He was unequaled in American history as inventor until Thomas Edison emerged.

Edison was a good businessman who may have taken credit for discoveries others had made. Contrary to popular belief, Edison did not invent the light bulb; he improved on a 50-year-old idea by using a small, carbonized filament lit up in a better vacuum. At the end, it was Edison who gained financial reward by making the concept commercially viable.

The phonograph is another invention for which Edison receives due credit, rightly or wrongly. The cylinder phonograph introduced in 1877 was capable of recording and playing back sound. He envisioned this invention as a business machine, eventually eliminating the written letter, but the public wanted to play music. Making multiple copies for sale posed a problem as a tenors needed to sing into 10 flaring horns to produce simultaneous recording.

It was Emile Berliner who initiated the transition from cylinders to discs to enable mass production. The gramophone was born. Master recordings were made onto zinc plates that were electroplated and a negative-image prepared to stamp multiple discs. Berliner records were 7 inch in diameter and played for two minutes per side running at 60–70 rpm.

The gramophones in 1896 were made by machinist Eldridge Johnson in Philadelphia who added a spring motor to drive the previously hand-rotated turntable. The Berliner discs produced a louder sound than the Edison cylinders and the popularity of the gramophone grew. Berliner transferred his patents to Johnson and the Victor Talking Machine Company was formed, also known as His Master’s Voice. Much to the surprise of Edison, phonograph records became a hot consumer item. Folk wanted “own” recorded music from famous artists such as tenor Caruso.

Thomas Edison may be the best remembered inventor in the USA, but he lost out to Tesla’s AC over DC as electric power source, the Berliner disc over the cylindrical recording, and lead acid over his much promoted nickel-iron battery for the electric vehicle. Nevertheless, Edison grew wealthy and lived in a mansion while Tesla struggled financially. Edison was also well connected in high places, such as George Eastman, the founder of Kodak. This may be the reason for the many high-quality photos of these two fine gentlemen. 

Countries often credit their own citizens for having made important inventions, whether deserved or not. When visiting museums in Europe, the USA and Japan, one sees such bestowment. The work to develop the car, x-ray machines, telephones, broadcast radio, TV and computers might have been done in parallel, not knowing of others’ advancements at that time, and the rightful inventor is often not clearly identified.

Similar uncertainties exist with the invention of new battery systems, and we give respect to research teams and organizations rather than individuals. Table 1 summarizes battery advancements and lists inventors when available.






William Gilbert (UK)

Establishment of electrochemistry study

1745 Ewald George von Kleist (Netherlands) Invention of Leyden jar. Stores static electricity


Luigi Galvani (Italy)

Discovery of “animal electricity”










Alessandro Volta (Italy)

William Cruickshank (UK)

André-Marie Ampère (France)

Michael Faraday (UK)

John F. Daniell (UK)

William Robert Grove (UK)

Gaston Planté (France)

Georges Leclanché (France)

 Waldmar Jungner (Sweden)

Invention of the voltaic cell (zinc, copper disks)

First electric battery capable of mass production

Electricity through magnetism

Announcement of Faraday’s law

Invention of the Daniell cell

Invention of the fuel cell (H2/O2)

Invention of the lead acid battery

Invention of the Leclanché cell (carbon-zinc)

Invention of the nickel-cadmium battery











Thomas A. Edison (USA)

Shlecht & Ackermann (D)

Georg Neumann (Germany)

Lew Urry, Eveready Battery

Group effort

Group effort

Sony (Japan)

Bellcore (USA)

Moli Energy (Canada)

University of Texas (USA)

Invention of the nickel-iron battery

Invention of the sintered pole plate

Successfully sealing the nickel-cadmium battery

Invention of the alkaline-manganese battery

Development of valve-regulated lead acid battery

Commercialization of nickel-metal-hydride battery

Commercialization of lithium-ion battery

Commercialization of lithium-ion polymer

Introduction of Li-ion with manganese cathode

Identification of Li-phosphate (LiFePO4)


University of Montreal, Quebec Hydro, MIT, others

Improvement of Li-phosphate, nanotechnology, commercialization


Table 1: History of modern battery development. No new major battery system has entered the commercial market since the invention of Li-phosphate in 1996.

Last updated 2015-07-30

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On June 23, 2011 at 3:35am
viswanathan sankaran wrote:

You have commented that
“No new major battery system has entered the commercial market since the invention of Li-phosphate in 1996”
What about the fuel cells and Vanadium Redox Flow batteries which are already commercialized ? There is no mention about the high temperature molten electrolyte sodium cell either?

On August 4, 2011 at 11:46pm
songfang wrote:

Really interesting !I learned a lot from it Thanks!

On November 20, 2011 at 10:17am
Reece wrote:

Thanks for the help. This helped me with my science fair

On June 5, 2012 at 1:36pm
Les wrote:

I work for an industrial supply company as a technical product support specialist. Often I receive many phone calls asking about batteries and their various types. Your site is extremely thorough. I appreciate the work you’ve done. Thank you! It will be of tremendous help to me and my peers.

On May 18, 2013 at 3:17pm
Mastero101 wrote:

Very interesting know about the history of the batteries, but us miss one thing who invent the Li-ion, Li-Po batteries. l want to know who develope the batteries that we use every day.

On June 22, 2013 at 7:17am
JK DHANDE wrote:

I wish to know all about battery and battery technology.

On January 8, 2014 at 3:35am
Pradeep Chandra Pant wrote:

Kindly enlighten us about Flow Battery, particularly about its charge discharge characteristics, energy density and cycle life.

On January 15, 2014 at 7:25pm
ibrahim wrote:

I do no y scientists came and y they invented…..........

On January 15, 2014 at 7:33pm
shabih wrote:

I wish to know about battery technology

On January 15, 2014 at 7:40pm
Kari kada bhai wrote:

I wish to know why battery is invented

On June 10, 2014 at 11:21pm
stephen wrote:

Great insight about battery development .
IT Support Braeside

On August 15, 2014 at 1:06am
Raviraj wrote:

I wants to be expert in Battery methodology

On September 8, 2014 at 7:14pm
marshall wrote:

Does the laptop battery get affected by A.C. supply? Does the life of the battery gets affected if run our laptop continuously on A.C. power? All the laptops run on A.C. power when getting fully charged up and still connected to supply mains. Thank you

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On September 8, 2014 at 10:43pm
Viswanathan wrote:

The A.C.Supply (110-230 V AC) is converted into DC and then fed into the battery for charging, with charging voltage regulation. So there is no need to worry. Once the battery reaches the full-charge level, almost no charging current flows, even though A.C.Power supply will be “on”, as the charging is virtually stopped by the electronic control circuit built inside the Laptop battery.
However, in order to prevent overcharging and heat generation inside the battery, it is best to disconnect the A.C. Supply after battery is fully charged.
To know the charge level of the lap top battery, you may install a battery charge indicator software, which will indicate the percentage of charge level in the laptop battery. You may keep operating the laptop only with battery (without A.C.Supply) till the battery level drops down to say 70-75% level. At this stage we may plug in the A.C. Supply adapter, which will start charging the battery. In other words, it is best to use the lap top battery between 75 to 98% level. This will give a longer life to the battery.

On September 9, 2014 at 3:38am
Ravi wrote:

I wants to expert in Battery methodology so any one can give suggetions?????

On September 17, 2014 at 8:24am
Chris Deschamps wrote:

Great website-thanks.  I am looking for a motion charger solution for a sensor data logger on an Arduino.  I was thinking of using an LVDT sort of device but doughnut shaped and using an iron ball bearing as the core.  Any thoughts?

On December 24, 2014 at 11:57pm
vivek patel wrote:

Is carbon nanotubes being commercially used as anode and cathode material for battery application?

On July 8, 2015 at 7:02am
palumberi francesco wrote:

do you advice me about books of history’s electrical battery?

On August 25, 2015 at 4:50am
rajr wrote:

Recently MIT and some other lab invented ultrafast Al-ion battery.It is fast(charge with in 1minute),inexpensive and environment friendly.
I don’t see any article on Al-ion battery, please update it.

On November 15, 2015 at 8:32am
Anji Reddy wrote:

Can some one help me?
Why battery cell can produce 2V only why not 3v or 4v?