Research on the development of the battery receives historical recognition

September 14, 2005

The development of the Columbia dry cell - the first battery marketed for consumer use - will be designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in a special ceremony at the Energizer Battery Company in Westlake, Ohio, on Sept. 27. The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, sponsors the landmarks program.

William F. Carroll, Jr., Ph.D., president of the Society, will present a commemorative plaque to Ward Klein, Energizer's Chief Executive Officer. The research that led to the introduction of the Columbia battery was conducted at Energizer's corporate predecessor, the National Carbon Company (NCC).

In 1896 NCC introduced the Columbia, a paper-lined, six-inch, 1.5 volt dry cell. Previous dry cells had been produced in Europe, but the Columbia marked an important step in the transformation of batteries from industrial products to consumer goods. Previous batteries failed to meet market needs for a maintenance-free, durable and non-spill dry cell that was also inexpensive.

The Columbia was marketed at a time of many, major technological breakthroughs, the automobile and the telephone among the most significant. Dry cells were used as the "igniter" in early cars, before the introduction of the magneto and electric starter, which was powered by a rechargeable storage battery. Early telephones were also powered by batteries.

Batteries played a critical role in the adaptation of electric current to household devices. The mass-production of batteries made possible the introduction of electric doorbells, burglar alarms, electric sewing machines and the flashlight. ACS President Carroll said "the Columbia Dry Cell brought portable power to the people and enabled modern life. It is clearly worthy of a National Historic Chemical Landmark."

Because the Columbia did not break as easily as predecessors and was economical to produce, it could satisfy many of these consumer needs. Moreover, the technology of the Columbia, a carbon-zinc battery using an acidic electrolyte, served as the basis for all dry cell batteries for the next sixty years, until the introduction of the alkaline battery by the Eveready Battery Company (now Energizer) in the late 1950s.
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The American Chemical Society established the National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program to commemorate significant developments in the history of chemistry, especially those that benefit society. Since its inception in 1992, the program has designated more than 50 landmarks, including the development of nylon, the production of synthetic rubber, and the evolution of durable press cotton. To read about these and other exciting Landmarks, please visit www.chemistry.org/landmarks.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 158,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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