Updated: Jan 13
The first battery was believed to have been invented somewhere in Ancient Mesopotamia, during either the time of the Parthian or Sasanian Empires, and is commonly known as the Baghdad Battery. The time period this encompases stretches from approximately the year 150 BC to 650 AD, long before historians believed human beings understood how to harness the power of electricity in any form. This was the first known example of any kind of energy storage technology, what is now currently one of the most important areas of scientific development being worked on today.
The usage of the word battery is far more modern than the Baghdad Battery, having been coined to describe a group of electrical devices by Benjamin Franklin in 1748. Today, the term encompasses any kind of device designed for the purpose of storing energy for use in the future. The term accumulator is also used to describe these devices, but it is not a frequently used part of the common vernacular.
The main purpose of energy storage devices is to allow us to convert energy from forms that are difficult to store in the long term into those that do so more easily and cheaply. The most widely used and economically sustainable form of energy storage today is the use of hydroelectric dams. As the world’s supply of fossil fuels and other non-sustainable sources of energy are steadily being depleted, finding more efficient and inexpensive methods to store energy is crucial to our society.
Because of the slow but inevitable depletion of fossil fuels, scientists have developed a number of different ways to produce and store energy in a sustainable fashion. Wind power is used across the world, but it is unreliable at the best of times, as weather patterns are frequently shifting. Without strong, steady gusts of wind, we are unable to harness any energy in this way. Furthermore, even when the energy is being produced, it is simply converted from kinetic energy into electrical energy. And the technology that allows us to store electrical energy is inefficient and flawed still. Solar power shares all of these same problems.
Hydroelectric dams are far more efficient at gathering and storing energy. The energy is stored as gravitational potential energy, and then converted into electrical energy when we need to use it. This is by far the most cost and energy efficient method of energy storage in use today. However, hydroelectric energy requires large amounts of space and water in order to function, which is problematic in less developed nations and nations without the requisite sources of water.
The main problem we face with energy storage is that for the most part, all of the methods we use to gather energy and store it are inefficient economically. For this reason, billions of dollars are being spent each year in order to develop superior methods of energy storage. A large percentage of this money is being directed towards the development of better batteries, that do not degrade and lose energy in the way that the commonly used chemical batteries do. Developing these new methods of energy storage are crucial to our future technological advancement and survival as a species.