The Battery That’s Lasted 176 Years

The Battery That’s Lasted 176 Years


I’m off to the Arctic for three weeks. And while I’m gone, some guest presenters
are going to be taking over this channel. We start with Sally le Page, a biologist from Oxford University, who is going to be talking about the world’s
longest lasting battery. Be nice, be kind, I’ll see you in three
weeks. Take it away, Sally! I’m in the Clarendon lab in Oxford, where physicists keep a battery with the longest
battery life the world has ever seen. It powers the Oxford Electric Bell, and it’s been running almost continuously
for over 176 years. It was bought by the Reverend Robert Walker, who was a reader in experimental philosophy
at Oxford. That’s what they used to call physicists
in those days, and should hopefully give you an idea of quite
how long ago we’re talking. He brought it back in 1840. So let’s just take a second to put that
in some context. If we skip back another 60 years, the year
is 1780. Mad King George is still on the British throne, the US declared independence just four years
earlier, and Napoleon is still a schoolboy. Over in Italy, a physicist, Luigi Galvani, was dissecting a frog’s leg with metal tools, but when he touched the nerve, he saw the
frog’s muscles twitch and he thought that this was “animal electricity”. Another Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta,
heard of this experiment, and realised that the frog’s leg was just
a fancy electrolyte that allowed current to flow between the copper
and iron tools that Galvani was using. And Volta went on to invent the first ever
battery in 1800, called the voltaic pile, made by piling up
discs of copper and zinc — well, here I’ve got aluminium foil — and sandwiching them with discs of cardboard
that was soaked in brine. And by piling up cells like this, you can see that you produce a battery, and
it still works! And then in 1825, the London instrument makers
Watkin and Hill made this: the Oxford Electric Bell and the dry pile
battery that powers it. And although it was just 25 years after Volta
invented the first ever battery, this battery here went on to outlive every
single other battery the world has ever produced and has won the Guinness World Record for
the world’s most durable battery. How does such an old battery last so long? Well, it’s a dry pile battery, so it’s
got a paste inside with the minimum amount of water needed for
the electrolyte to work. And all that water is kept in with this solid
sulfur coating. But beyond that, we don’t really know what’s
inside it. Looking at diagrams of other batteries from
around the time, it’s probably got about 2000 of these discs
made from zinc and manganese dioxide all stacked up. But to find out what it’s exactly made of, we’d have to cut it open and end its 176-year
run. In this time, the bells have run around 10
billion times, give or take, although this is an active physics laboratory, so thankfully for all the physicists around
here it’s now inaduble and it’s behind two
panes of glass. Each time the bell rings, the clapper takes
a tiny one nanoamp of current, but the voltage between the bells is a whopping
2 kilovolts. That’s nearly 10 times the voltage of UK
mains electricity. How long can it keep on running for? Well, no one really knows. The people round here reckon that the bell
will break from wear and tear long before the battery runs out of power. In 1841, just one year after Oxford bought
the bell, the instrument makers themselves wrote in
a letter, “The residual electrical power sufficient
to keep up the ringing of the bells “seldom lasts more than three or four years. “It’s a pretty apparatus, but alas, “very transient in its working powers.” How wrong could they be? That was Sally le Page, she has some great
videos on her channel, check it out — links are on screen or in
the description now. Thank you also to the University of Oxford’s
physics department for letting us film the bell. Next time: we have someone with some teeth
dissolving in soda.

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    Doug Moody

    Are we really sure the battery is ringing the bell? Could it be radio waves that are resonating with the length of the wire? After all, we do know this happens! We might be confusing the "ringing of the bell" with energy that is coming from a different source, and not the battery.

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    THE BUDDHA 420

    My battery is dying after a week but this one lasts hundreds of years sounds like a scam from the battery people that want Our money

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    You Tube

    They’re stretching that shirt beyond capacity…exerting maxim force in opposite direction causing horizontal stress across the chest

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    Dave Corbey

    Just cut it open already…..then I can get one for my electric car and for 175 years crawl along at 0.1 nanometer per day.

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    EXcentriX

    I wonder, if the sulphur adds to the chemical reaction except keeping the water wet and the cell material from rust/oxidizing.

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    Rick Jasper

    The battery companies will buy it to destroy it or lock it up in a warehouse, like the automakers did with the red trolleys in Los Angeles to prevent the competition.

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    SPARKY#1

    They can make them today, but they wouldn't make any money, so they deliberately make them last a short while, just like light bulbs and whole bunch of other components sold…

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    Dalton Mann

    you mean to tell me there is a battery that has lasted a hundred and seventy six years and we dont know what its even made of? i think it would be a good idea oh, i dont know to maybe do some test on this type of battery? i mean we are trying to get off fossil fuels. well we are not going to do that until we find a better and longer lasting battery!

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    diGritz1

    The incredible sophistication and high technical degree of construction that it required should leave no doubt as to it's origins….. Aliens.
    Those ruddy bastards just couldn't stop at building pyramids or messing with people by posing as Zeus, Odin or Patrick Swayze.

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    Cooper DMselector

    All the physics aside. Sally got this face you wanna listen to all day long. Don't get the perv idea, I was drawn here for the battery concept cuz for me "The unlimited energy" is the sexist thing any human could ever dream off

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    alphagt62

    The trick is not the battery, but the bell. The dissimilar metals will always have a voltage potential, the fact that the bell only requires a micro amp to run is why it never stops. Any normal battery powered device of our time uses far more electricity to operate, so it will exceed the voltage potential of dissimilar metals in a short time. It could run virtually forever, or until the metals turn to dust.

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    Racer 67

    Well i guess its a good thing the Nazis abandoned operation sea lion and didnt invade the island and take it! They probly would of cut it open to see wats inside!!

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    Michael Jedd

    1:27 Dont forget about the Baghdad battery, or as some may call it the Babylon battery. But for those who don't accept the ancient battery for what it is then there is still 1744, the Leyden jar: The concept for the Leyden jar was arrived at independently by Dutchmen Musschenbroek and Cunaeus and German scientist Ewald Georg von Kleist. It was essentially a capacitor that stored a charge between two metal plates. A number of jars could be connected in parallel to form a “battery” (the term was coined by Benjamin Franklin).

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    Timothy Johnson

    Tesla, it’s not a battery. Its receiving energy thru the air at the bells two points and circulation thru the discs. As long as the metals stay intact. This can go longer. Now u know why the made Tesla go crazy and killed him.

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    Milan Stevanovic

    Don't cut that battery, it's an cell model, the acid gets recharge in the brakes of the ringing. It's an equilibrium model of statically accumulation. The material might last for decades shorter, but still for ages…

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    TokeTooMuch 420

    The reason this battery has lasted so long is because they made it to do so, nowadays they manufacture batterys to only last a little while or else why buy more? Supply and demand and money.

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    Kristian Mandrup

    See the Lightbulb Conspiracy. Same story with all tech… Needs to b a money maker, not help the people too much so they can be free

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    hummus shotgun

    This isn't even a battery , its just a tiny amount of electrical energy being generated by a slow chemical reaction . Eg a tiny chemical reactor..

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    Si Chi

    Imagine if someone be like, "oops, sorry bro, i broke that old glass jar with weird metal balls. Dont worry ill pay up for that.😊"

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    Atlas 51232

    But battery life directly depends on what the usage is so idk if, in percentage, is any better than our batteries

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    Xeno Bardock

    2 kilovolts but nanoamps of current so its an electrostatic battery. If you install the correct transformer and capacitor that can lower the voltage to between 3-12 volts and increase current to milliamps or amp. One can probably create a smartphone battery than can last for very long time.

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