Home Uncategorized No one knows how these two batteries have lasted 175 years

No one knows how these two batteries have lasted 175 years

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They’ve been powering an electric bell at Oxford University since 1840,
and scientists are too scared to study them in case they ruin their
incredible run.

On
a shelf in the foyer of the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford University
in the UK sits the most economical electric bell in the world. Known
officially as the Clarendon Dry Pile, this little contraption has been
ringing its two brass bells almost continuously since at least 1840,
save for a few hiccups due to high humidity and a couple of
relocations. 
Records show the humble bell was first purchased in London by Oxford physics professor Robert Walker and “set up in 1840”, but there’s also evidence to suggest
that it was actually put to work 15 years earlier than that. Either
way, this thing has lasted a ridiculously long time, and Walker sure did
get his money’s worth. 
According to Jason Koebler at Motherboard,
it’s rung roughly 10 billion times so far, which isn’t as
insanity-provoking as you might think – it’s practically inaudible now,
so you have to look really close to see that it is indeed still
working.

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 It works using one of the first types of electric batteries ever
invented – the dry pile. The idea is that its two brass bells are each
positioned beneath one of these dry pile batteries, and a tiny metal
sphere – or ‘clapper’ – is suspended between the two bells. This
4-millimetre clapper vibrates between the bells and rings them due to an
electrostatic force, maintained by the ringing of the bells. 
So, when
the clapper hits one bell, it’s charged by the corresponding dry pile,
and electrostatically repelled. This pushes the clapper into the other
bell, where it’s charged by that bell’s corresponding dry pile, repelled
into the other bell, rinse and repeat. Over and over and over again. 
The
system is so efficient because only a tiny amount of charge is carried
between the bells – about 1 nanoAmp each time the clapper vibrates
between the bells, says Koebler at Motherboard.
Writing
about it in 1984, AJ Croft, then a researcher at Oxford’s Clarendon
Laboratory, explains the mystery behind the little bell’s power in The European Journal of Physics:

“What
the piles are made of is not known with certainty, but it is clear that
the outer coating is of sulphur, and this seals in the cells and the
electrolyte. Piles similar to this were made by [19th century dry pile researcher
Giuseppe] Zamboni, whose batteries were constituted of about 2,000
pairs of discs of tin foil glued to paper impregnated with zinc sulphate
and coated on the other side with manganese dioxide. The piles, of
course, are not dry, but contain the right amount of water to provide
the electrolyte without causing a short-circuit.”

The team at
Oxford will eagerly pull apart these dry piles once they finally die to
see what they’re made of, but right now, all they’ve got to go on is an
educated guess. What we do know is that pretty much every battery we’re using right now should be very ashamed of itself.

Source: Motherboard

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