Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827) was an Italian physicist known for the invention of the battery in the 1800s. He was born in Como, a town in present-day northern Italy (near the Swiss border) on February 18, 1745. In 1774, he became a professor of physics at the Royal School in Como. A year later, heimproved and popularized the electrophorus, a device that produced static electricity. His promotion of it was so extensive that he is often credited with its invention, even though a machine operating on the same principle was described in 1762 by the Swedish experimenter Johan Wilcke.
In the years between 1776–78, Volta studied the chemistry of gases. He discovered methane after reading a paper by Benjamin Franklin of Americaon "flammable air", and Volta searched for it carefully in Italy. In November, 1776, he found methane at Lake Maggiore, and by 1778 he managed to isolate methane. He devised experiments such as the ignition of methane by an electric spark in a closed vessel.
Volta also studied what we now call electrical capacitance, developing separate means to study both electrical potential (V ) and charge (Q ), and discovering that for a given object, they are proportional. This may be called Volta's Law of capacitance, and it was for this work the unit of electrical potential has been named the volt. Luigi Galvani discovered something he named "animal electricity" when two different metals were connected in series with the frog's leg and to one another. Volta realized that the frog's leg served as both a conductor of electricity (what we would now call an electrolyte) and as a detector of electricity.
He replaced the frog's leg with brine-soaked paper, and detected the flow of electricity by other means familiar to him from his previous studies. In this way he discovered the electrochemical series, and the law that the electromotive force (emf) of a galvanic cell, consisting of a pair of metal electrodes separated by electrolyte, is the difference between their two electrode potentials (thus, two identical electrodes and a common electrolyte give zero net emf). This may be called Volta's Law of the electrochemical series. In 1800 as the result of a professional disagreement over the galvanic response advocated by Galvani, he invented the voltaic pile, an early electric battery, which produced a steady electric current. Volta had determined that the most effective pair of dissimilar metals to produce electricity was zinc and silver. Initially he experimented with individual cells in series, each cell being a wine goblet filled with brine into which the two dissimilar electrodes were dipped. The voltaic pile replaced the goblets with cardboard soaked in brine.
In announcing his discovery of his voltaic pile, Volta paid tribute to the influences of William Nicholson, Tiberius Cavallo, and Abraham Bennet. The battery made by Volta is credited as the first electrochemical cell. It consists of two electrodes: one made of zinc, the other of copper. The electrolyte is either sulfuric acid mixed with water or a form of saltwater brine. The electrolyte exists in the form 2H+ and SO42−. The zinc, which is higher than both copper and hydrogen in the electrochemical series, reacts with the negatively charged sulfate (SO42−). The positively charged hydrogen ions (protons) captureelectrons from the copper, forming bubbles of hydrogen gas, H2. This makes the zinc rod the negative electrode and the copper rod the positive electrode.
zincZn → Zn2+ + 2e−sulfuric acid2H+ + 2e− → H2
The copper does not react, but rather it functions as an electrode for the electric current. In honor of his work, his image was depicted upon the Italian 10,000 lira note (no longer in circulation, since the lira has been replaced by the euro) along with a sketch of his well-known voltaic pile.
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