Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (1745-1827) Volta: A pioneer in Electrochemistry Courtesy of Willie Weinberg This report focuses on the life of Volta, details his inventions, and illuminates Volta's influence in electrochemistry.
Electrochemistry Electrochemistry is branch of science which deals with relations between chemical and electrical energies, i.e., with chemical changes produced by electricity and production of electricity by chemical action as in electric cells or batteries. Originating at the turn of the eighteenth century, the field of electrochemistry really did not open up until the start of the 1800's when an Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, made significant advances. The Life of Volta Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta was born in Como (Italy) on February 18, 1745, into a noble family. His young childhood did not show making of prodigies. It was not until the age of four when he talked, and his family was convinced that he was retarded. By the age of fourteen, he made up his mind to be a physicist. Volta became fascinated with the phenomenon of the age, electricity. He became so enamoured with it that he wrote an excellent Latin poem on the subject. In 1774, he was appointed professor of physics in the Como high school. Inventions A century and half after Galileo's death, centre of scientific importance was Italy. When Luigi Galvani's experiments with "animal electricity" were published (1791), Volta effectively rejected the idea of an "animal electric fluid". Volta found that it was the presence of two dissimilar metals, not the frog leg, which was critical. In 1800, after much experimentation, he developed the voltaic pile, the first electric battery. The original voltaic pile consisted of a pile of zinc and silver discs and between each two discs was a piece of cardboard that had been soaked in saltwater. A wire connecting the bottom zinc disc to the top silver disc could produce repeated sparks. This is the basis of all modern wet-cell batteries and it was a very important scientific discovery, because it was the first method found for a storage electrical current. Volta built different piles using thirty, forty or sixty elements.
This enabled him to study the action of the pile on the electric fluid, depending on the number of elements, and he confirmed that the power of electric shock increased with the number of elements used in the pile. If more than twenty elements were used, it became painful. The first piles constructed by Volta comprised alternating zinc and copper discs. Each was separated from its neighbours by a piece of cloth or card dampened by an acid solution. The column was supported by three vertical glass rods. In 1775 he invented the electrophorus, a charge-accumulating machine. Volta's fame spread as his results. In 1778, Volta was the first who isolate the compound methane, a major constituent of natural gas. Further, in 1779, he received a professorial appointment at the University of Pavia, where he continued his work with electricity. He invented other things involving static electricity and received the Copley medal of the Royal Society, where he was selected to membership, in 1791. The Galvani vs. Volta conflict was one of the most interesting episodes in the history of science, and was devoid of personal animosity, because Galvani and Volta were both gentleman and friends, and also had high scientific principles. In fact, Volta, who generously coined the term galvanism, wrote that Galvani's work "contained one of the most beautiful and most surprising discoveries." Upon demonstrating the workings of the voltaic pile to the French Academy of Science, he was made into a count of Lombardy by Napoleon Bonaparte, who had dominated that part of Italy. Volta continued to excel and to receive posts of high honour. Maybe his greatest honour is that the unit of electromotive force- the driving force that moves the electric current- is now called the "volt".
The energy of moving charged particles produced by modern atom-smashing machines is measured in electron-volts. A billion electron-volts are abbreviated "bev," and when we speak of the particular atom-smasher called the bevatron, the "v" in the name stands for Volta. Works Cite List 1. Dobrý deň, pán Ampére. Encyclopaedia of physicists 2. "Battery" and "Electrochemistry". Encyclopaedia 3. Internet