Monday, 1 October 2012
Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Gerolamo Umberto Volta (18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827) was an Italian physicist known for the invention of the battery in the 1800s.
In announcing his discovery of the 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 sulfuric acid or a brine mixture of carbon and water. 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) capture electrons from the copper, forming bubbles of hydrogen gas, H2. This makes the zinc rod the negative electrode and the copper rod the positive electrode.
We now have two terminals, and the current will flow if we connect them. The reactions in this cell are as follows:
Zn → Zn2+ + 2e−
2H+ + 2e− → H2
The copper does not react, functioning as an electrode for the chemical reaction.
However, this cell also has some disadvantages. It is unsafe to handle, as sulfuric acid, even if dilute, is dangerous. Also, the power of the cell diminishes over time because the hydrogen gas is not released, accumulating instead on the surface of the zinc electrode and forming a barrier between the metal and the electrolyte solution.
In honor of his work, Volta was made a count by Napoleon in 1801.Furthermore, he was depicted upon the Italian 10,000 Lire (no longer in circulation) along with a sketch of his famous Voltaic Pile.
Volta retired in 1819 to his estate in Camnago, a frazione of Como now called Camnago Volta after him, where he died on 5 March 1827.He is buried in Camnago Volta.
Volta's legacy is celebrated by a Temple located in the public gardens by the lake. There is also a museum which has been built in his honor and exhibits some of the original equipment he used to conduct experiments; not far away stands the Villa Olmo, which houses the Voltian Foundation, an organization promoting scientific activities. Volta carried out his experimental studies and made his first inventions in Como.