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Thomas Edison Assesses Obstacles in the Preparation of Crucial Materials As He Invents a Viable Alkaline Battery

Thomas Edison

Librería: The Raab Collection (Ardmore, PA, Estados Unidos de America)

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ÒNickel hydroxide precipitated cold swells badly in time. We shall have to stick to boiling & old wayÉ.Your irons donÕt seem to be turning good.ÓThomas Edison and Electricity are almost synonymous. Edison invented many electricity-inspired devices, such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and a forerunner of the movie projector. To create the electricity, he set up the world's first electricity generation plant, and developed a complete electrical distribution system for light and power. These are are just a few of the host of his electricity inventions that laid the basis for the modern electric world. So it is not surprising that he should seek a self-generating source of electricity; in other words, a battery.EdisonÕs interest in batteries was long-standing and dated back to his time as a telegraph inventor. He was among the first to try to try to develop consumer-friendly batteries, and made important improvements in battery design, inventing alkaline batteries. He began investigating storage batteries as early as the 1880s, but it was the advent of automobiles in the late 1890s that spurred him to develop a storage battery to power them. Electrical power would, Edison felt, be a much better solution than gasoline. He stated, ÒElectricity is the thing. There are no whirring and grinding gears with their numerous levers to confuse. There is not that almost terrifying uncertain throb and whirr of the powerful combustion engine. There is no water-circulating system to get out of order - no dangerous and evil-smelling gasoline and no noise.Ó Electricity had to be the future, he wrote, since in time Óall the oil would be pumped out of the ground.Ó Electricity-powered cars would also be less expensive to produce, bringing the price to the consumer down.The problems the Edison lab faced with batteries for electric cars were that the lead-acid batteries that that existed then were too heavy, and the acid corroded the lead inside the battery, shortening its useful life. The Edison team would look for a way to make batteries lighter, more reliable, and at least three times long-lasting, so that they could become the basis of a successful electric car. Their idea was to use alkaline electrolytes, and make a nickel-iron based battery. The active material of the positive plates of such a battery would be a form of nickel hydroxide form of nickel hydrate, and it would contain no lead or other heavy metals. It would therefore be without risk of acid spills, and its construction and disposal would be largely without significant environmental damage. The battery chemistry in a nickel-iron battery, during both charging and discharging, acts to transfer oxygen from one electrode to the other. The battery Edison ultimately manufactured was so efficient that it lasted for decades.He established the Edison Chemical Works in 1905 to manufacture the iron and nickel compounds to be used by the Edison Storage Battery Co. (ESBCo). Around 1916 Chemical Works became a division of ESBCo, with Edison's brother-in-law John V. Miller continuing as manager and Charles F. Hunter serving as superintendent. William J. O'Dair was their product engineer. It took over a decade to develop a commercially viable iron-nickel battery, and by that time automobiles powered by internal combustion engines had become dominant. Had their battery been available sooner, the economic, political, and environmental history of the world might look very different. Though no longer primarily focused on cars, their battery work carried on for decades, and they made constant improvements. Edison developed an extensive market for his battery in a variety of industrial uses, and it was the most successful product of his later life.Autograph letter signed, Orange, NJ, March 31, 1913, to manager Miller. ÒNickel hydroxide precipitated cold swells badly in time. We shall have to stick to boiling & old way. Edison.Ó He added a PS: ÒYour irons donÕt seem to be turning good. E.Ó. N° de ref. de la librería 10658

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The Raab Collection buys and sells rare important historical documents, bring to its endeavors a passion not only for the manuscript but the history behind it. We've built important historical collections for institutions and historical enthusiasts. Our pieces have found homes in many major institutions devoted to preserving history.

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