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General Studies 3 >> Science & Technology

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1. Introduction

The electric battery has revolutionized our lives, providing a portable and convenient source of electricity that powers a vast array of devices, from smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles and medical equipment. This remarkable invention has its roots in the late 18th century when Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile laid the foundation for modern batteries.

2. About Battery Development

  • Luigi Galvani's accidental discovery in 1780, where he observed a frog's leg twitching when connected to two different metals, sparked the curiosity of scientists and paved the way for further exploration in the field of electricity.
  • Volta's voltaic pile, developed in 1800, was a significant advancement, demonstrating the ability to generate a continuous flow of electricity using a series of stacked metal plates and a salt solution.
  • John Daniel's improved design, which replaced Volta's pile with copper and zinc electrodes immersed in their respective sulfate solutions, provided a more stable and durable source of electricity.
  • Michael Faraday, in the early 19th century, provided a deeper understanding of these electrochemical cells, elucidating the concepts of anode, cathode, electrolyte, and the role of electron transfer in generating electricity.

3. The Working Principle of an Electric Battery

  • An electric battery, also known as a voltaic or galvanic cell, operates based on the principle of redox reactions.
  • These reactions involve the transfer of electrons between two half-cells, each containing an electrode and an electrolyte.
  • The anode, where oxidation occurs, releases electrons, while the cathode, where reduction occurs, accepts electrons.
  • These electrons flow through an external circuit, generating an electric current.

4. Key Concepts of a Battery

  • The cathode is the positively charged electrode, attracting electrons, while the anode is the negatively charged electrode, releasing electrons.
  • Oxidation releases electrons, while reduction consumes electrons.
  • The source voltage, also known as electromotive force, represents the energy imparted to electrons by the half-cells, while the terminal voltage is the driving force pushing electrons from the anode to the cathode.
  • Corrosion poses a significant challenge to battery performance, as it can degrade the electrodes and reduce the battery's lifespan.
  • Corrosion can occur due to factors such as humidity, atmospheric carbon dioxide, and galvanic corrosion, where one electrode dissolves faster than the other.

5. Types of Batteries

  • Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized the portable electronics industry due to their high energy density, long lifespan, and rechargeable nature.
  • In a lithium-ion polymer cell, lithium metal oxide acts as the cathode, graphite as the anode, and a semisolid polymer gel as the electrolyte.
  • The battery can function in both voltaic (discharge) and electrolytic (charge) phases.
  • Lithium-ion batteries play a crucial role in powering electric vehicles (EVs). For instance, Tesla's Model S cars utilize thousands of lithium-ion cells in their batteries.
  • Fuel cells, such as hydrogen fuel cells, are another promising alternative for electric power in vehicles.
  • These cells generate electricity through the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, producing only water as a byproduct.

6. Conclusion

Electric batteries have revolutionized our lives, providing a portable and convenient source of electricity for a wide range of applications. The evolution of battery technology, from early voltaic cells to modern lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, continues to shape our world, powering our devices, propelling our vehicles, and driving innovation in various fields. With ongoing research and development, batteries are poised to play an even more significant role in shaping a sustainable and electrified future.

For Prelims: electric battery, electric vehicles, Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile, Luigi Galvani, anode, cathode, electrolyte, Michael Faraday, Corrosion, Lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells
For Mains: 
1. Discuss the significance of lithium-ion batteries in the portable electronics industry and their role in powering electric vehicles. (250 Words)
2. Evaluate the potential of fuel cells, such as hydrogen fuel cells, as an alternative source of electric power for vehicles and their environmental benefits. (250 Words)
Previous Year Questions
1. Choose the correct option regarding FAME Scheme? (SBI Clerk 2021)
A. To promote the manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology
B.FAME stands for Faster adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles
C.FAME India is part of the National Electric mobility Mission Plan
D. All of the above
Answer -D

2. With reference to ‘fuel cells’ in which hydrogen-rich fuel and oxygen are used to generate electricity, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2015)

1. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, the fuel cell emits heat and water as by-products.
2. Fuel cells can be used for powering buildings and not for small devices like laptop computers.
3. Fuel cells produce electricity in the form of Alternating Current (AC).

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only       (b) 2 and 3 only      (c) 1 and 3 only         (d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: A

3. With reference to technologies for solar power production, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2014)

1. ‘Photovoltaics’ is a technology that generates electricity by direction conversion of light into electricity, while ‘Solar Thermal’ is a technology that utilizes the Sun’s rays to generate heat which is further used in electricity generation process.
2. Photovoltaics generate Alternating Current (AC), while solar Thermal generates Direct Current (DC).
3. India has manufacturing base for Solar Thermal technology, but not for Photovoltaics.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only            (b) 2 and 3 only             (c) 1, 2 and 3               (d) None

Answer: A

4. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2020)

1. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead and mercury.
2. Coal-fired power plants release sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen into the environment. 3. High ash content is observed in Indian coal.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 

A. 1 only        B. 2 and 3 only           C. 3 only           D. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

5. Consider the following: (UPSC 2011)

1. Carbon dioxide
2. Oxides of Nitrogen
3. Oxides of sulphur

Which of the above is/are emission/emissions from coal combustion at thermal power plants?  

A. 1 only         B. 2 and 3 only        C. 1 and 3 only          D. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

6. Which of the following Indian States/Union Territories launched Electric Vehicle Policy on 7th August 2020? (UPPSC 2020)
A. Madhya Pradesh
B. Uttar Pradesh
C. Delhi
D. Tamil Nadu
Answer: C
7. Which type of battery is used in the recently launched world's first fully electric cargo ship by change? (Delhi Police Constable 2017) 
A. Lead Acid
B. Manganese
C. Lithium ion
D. Nickel metal hydride
Answer: C
8. With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following?  (UPSC 2020) 
1. Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units.
2. Create meaningful short stories and songs.
3. Disease diagnosis.
4. Text-to-Speech Conversion.
5. Wireless transmission of electrical energy.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
A. 1, 2, 3 and 5 only       B. 1, 3 and 4 only      C.  2, 4 and 5 only      D. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Answer: B

9. Which one of the following pairs of metals constitutes the lightest metal and the heaviest metal, respectively? (UPSC 2008)

A. Lithium and mercury
B. Lithium and osmium
C. Aluminum and osmium
D. Aluminium and mercury

Answer: B

10.  Recently, there has been a concern over the short supply of a group of elements called ‘rare earth metals’. Why? (2012)

  1. China, which is the largest producer of these elements, has imposed some restrictions on their export.
  2. Other than China, Australia, Canada and Chile, these elements are not found in any country.
  3. Rare earth metals are essential for the manufacture of various kinds of electronic items and there is a growing demand for these elements.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only       (b) 2 and 3 only           (c) 1 and 3 only            (d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: C


1. How is efficient and affordable urban mass transport key to the rapid economic development in India? (UPSC 2019)

Source: The Hindu

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