SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Early electric battery. Historical artwork of a voltaic pile, the first modern type of electric battery, which was invented in 1800 by the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (1745-1827). A voltaic pile consists of alternating units (one shown at right) of plates of two different metals and a piece of wet cardboard or cloth. Here, from top to bottom, the unit is: copper plate, wet cardboard, zinc plate. A pile of these units makes up the voltaic pile in the main picture. Wires at top and bottom carry the electric current, produced by a chemical reaction, to power an electrical device. Zinc and copper are still used in batteries today. Artwork from Scientific Recreations (Tissander Gaston, 1850).
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