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The History of the Battery That’s Lasted 176 Years

Battery life is still a constant headache for anyone using a portable device, despite many improvements in battery technology over the last few decades. Yet even high-end consumer batteries can’t match the longevity of the Oxford Electric Bell, which has now been running for an astonishing 176 years!

The latest video on Tom Scott‘s YouTube channel features guest host Sally Le Page as she briefly explains the history of batteries before putting the Oxford Electric Bell in context. She notes that Alessandro Volta’s first battery in 1800 was inspired by Luigi Galvani’s dissection of a frog twenty years earlier; which led to the discovery that muscle contraction could be stimulated by an electric current. The Oxford Electric Bell was created in 1825, a mere 25 years after Volta’s first battery; and it has been recognized as the longest-lasting battery in the world. Top that, Duracell!

How is that battery still ringing a bell after nearly two centuries? No one is entirely sure. As Le Page explained, it’s a dry pile battery, “so it’s got a paste inside with a minimum amount of water needed for the electrolyte to work.” The battery is covered in a solid sulfur coating, and it’s theorized that the interior contains thousands of discs made of manganese dioxide and zinc. But the only way to know for sure would be to cut open the battery, which would bring the long-running experiment to a premature end. So far, no one has been willing to do that, and the Oxford Electric Bell will probably continue to ring under the glass for a long time to come.

What did you think about this video? Ring the bell and share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Image: YouTube/Tom Scott

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