Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How The 2000-Year-Old Baghdad Battery Would Have Worked

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In 1938, Wilhelm Knig published his paper Ein galvanisches Element aus der Partherzeit?

in which he claimed that three artifacts which were found in Iraq used to form a battery.

Now called: the Baghdad Battery.

Knig hypothesized that the 2000 year old objects a ceramic pot, a copper cylinder

and a rod of iron were used to create a current.

How would that have worked?

A battery, like for example the modern alkaline double A battery, has two major substances:

Zinc (Zn), the anode which can release electrons because of oxidation, and manganese dioxide (MnO2),

the cathode which can use those electrons to start a process called reduction.

The two displayed half-reactions taken together, result in an overall so called redox reaction

which releases 1.43 volts of electricity.

The only thing missing is a place for the chemical reaction to happen, which is the

function of the electrolyte alkaline, hence the name alkaline battery.

That is the basic principle of a battery: An anode, a cathode and an electrolyte.

Now, switch the half-reaction of zinc for that of iron, the half-reaction of manganese

dioxide for the one of copper and the electrolyte alkaline for a ceramic pot filled with for

example vinegar or wine, and youve got yourself a working Baghdad battery.

But the question is, were those artifacts indeed used for this purpose?

Well, probably not.

They mightve been used for a process called electroplating, or others claim the

artifacts were used for storing scrolls.

Some even claim that the artifacts are not even originating from the Parthian period,

but from the Sasanian period which makes the Baghdad battery about 500 years less old than Knig predicted.

Professor Stone an expert on Iraqi archaeology stated that she does not know a single

archaeologist who believes that these were indeed working batteries.

The first real battery, was most likely the one created by Alessandro Volta, in the year 1800.

But if you would like to know more about that, you can listen to the new podcast I launched

today named Age of Technology . Together with my mate Henri, we explore and discuss

the history and future of everyday technologies.

First up: batteries!

If you want to check it out which I hope you do you can find us at

Ill see you over there!

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