Who invented the first Electromechanical Cell? (Invention Timeline Explained)

The history of inventions can be a fascinating rabbit hole to dive in, as there have been countless examples of inventions — ranging from the simplest items to the most complex machines. In this case, the topic is about the first electromechanical cell, which has a rich history of people trying to understand and harness electricity. 

The electromechanical cell, also known as the electrochemical cell, uses chemical reactions to generate electrical energy, or the other way around. While the world of electricity is vast, let’s dive into the specifics of the electromechanical cell, its timeline, and the person responsible for its creation!

Who invented the first electromechanical cell?

The first electromechanical cell was invented by Alessandro Volta. He was responsible for the voltaic cell (galvanic cell), and was the first person to detect that the so-called animal electricity had different properties. He figured out that the frog limb used for the phenomenon only acted as a detector instead of being the cause. 

The first electromechanical cell’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Alessandro Volta
    Inventor of the electromechanical cell, and the first battery

    Alessandro Volta was well-known for developing the foundation for what would be known as electrochemistry. He invented the electromechanical cell, also known as the voltaic cell, and the first battery.

  • Napoleon Bonaparte
    The excited lab assistant and ruler of France

    Surprisingly enough, Napoleon Bonaparte had a contribution in the form of being Volta’s lab assistant. Napoleon was the one who excitedly showcased the voltaic pile alongside Volta in the French National Institute.

  • Luigi Galvani
    Started the theories that Alessandro Volta would eventually challenge

    Luigi Galvani was the first to conduct experiments with frogs, generating what he would call animal electricity. It was this event that eventually sparked Alessandro Volta to start his own experimentation.

  • Sir Humphry Davy
    Moved electrochemistry forward

    Sir Humphry Davy was an important contributor, as he was the first to figure out that the voltaic battery’s reactions depend on chemical reactions instead of only relying on the contact of various metals.

  • Michael Faraday
    Sir Humphry Davy’s successor

    Arguably, Michael Faraday was considered one of the greatest of his time. Faraday continued the research of Davy, and strived to explore the relationship between electricity and magnetism.

When was the first electromechanical cell invented?

The very first electromechanical cell was invented in 1800 by Alessandro Volta.

A brief history of the first electromechanical cell

To talk about the first electromechanical cell is to talk about the history of electrochemistry, in general. After all, the electromechanical cell is practically interchangeable with the first battery. The story starts with Luigi Galvani figuring out what he called animal electricity. He concluded there was a type of electric fluid in the body that helped deliver animal electricity to the muscle tissue.

Alessandro Volta stepped into the mix by figuring out it was the reaction between the frog leg and the metals that caused electrical currents to run through it. The reaction of two diverse metals was the reason for the leg twitching due to the current, and he created his experiments to prove it.

Eventually, Alessandro Volta would invent the electromechanical cell, an event that excited even Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon would present the voltaic pile — the first modern electrical battery — to the French National Institute. Naturally, this led to many other people trying their experiments with the electromechanical cell and coming up with different theories.

One of the most crucial involved Sir Humphry Davy’s work on the voltaic pile. The fascinating thing was he figured out it wasn’t necessarily just the diverse metals that caused the electrical reaction. He figured out that it was due to the chemical reactions — leading to the expansion of electrochemistry. It led him to propose the electrical theory of chemical affinity.

Sir Humphry Davy’s student and successor, Michael Faraday, would go on to expand the research even further, going on to become one of the most celebrated scientists of his time. He pursued the relationship between electricity and magnetism, and he penned the two fundamental laws of electrochemistry — inventions that continue to be relevant in the modern era.

The first electromechanical cell timeline

  1. 1791
    The discovery of animal electricity

    Luigi Galvani discovered animal electricity in 1791. It would be this discovery that eventually led to the electromechanical cell. 

  2. 1800
    Alessandro Volta invents the electromechanical cell

    Also known as the voltaic pile, Alessandro Volta’s creation of the electromechanical cell led to new avenues of research.

  3. 1806
    Sir Humphry Davy tackles the voltaic pile

    The research of Sir Humphry Davy led to the discovery of chemical  reactions within the electromechanical cell. It wasn’t necessarily only the diverse metals, but the chemical reactions that led to the energy output.

  4. 1834
    Michael Faraday publishes the two laws of electrochemistry

    Sir Humphry Davy’s successor was also considered one of the most talented scientists of his time. Michael Faraday’s research led to multiple inventions and the expansion of electrochemistry. 

Where was the first electromechanical cell invented?

The electromechanical cell was first invented in the University of Pavia, in Italy.

The importance of the first electromechanical cell

  • A path forward for electricity and energy output

    The road to the discovery and evolution of electricity is vast and full of talented inventors. With the development of the electromechanical cell, it’s a step forward for electricity and energy output.

  • The foundation for electrochemistry

    It’s challenging to talk about the electromechanical cell without deep diving into the development of electrochemistry. It was Alessandro Volta that started the rise of electrochemistry, and it was Michael Faraday that eventually cemented its position.

  • A fundamental part of modern industrial production

    The process of electrolysis was developed with the help of people like Volta and Faraday. The latter’s laws of electrochemistry are still part of the production of metals and similar materials.

  • Turned into the power source of experiments of the time period

    Alessandro Volta’s creation of the electromechanical cell led it to become the power source of experiments in the time period.

The electromechanical cell by the numbers

  • 2There are two combinations of metals in the electromechanical cell. The first is a combo of zinc and silver. The second is a combo of copper and pewter.
  • 1In case you’re wondering, the energy that an electromechanical cell can produce is a single volt. There’s a reason they call it the voltaic pile!
  • 1806The year when Sir Humphry Davy developed the electrical theory of chemical affinity. Davy’s theory sparked the mad dash for electrochemistry.
  • 2000Sir Humphry Davy used a 2000-pair voltaic pile — which was made for the Royal Institution — to demonstrate the carbon arc discharge.

Five facts about the electromechanical cell

  • The components of the electromechanical cell

    Alessandro Volta’s invention consists of a few components. With cloth soaked in brine alongside copper and pewter discs created the first electromechanical cell. Each combination of the metals and the discs counted for one cell.

  • The benefits of the electromechanical cell

    The voltaic pile was used as a power source by many scientists for all sorts of experiments. While energy could be stored in the pile for experiments, the electromechanical cell needed to be recharged for future use.

  • The electrolysis of water and various uses

    Since the creation of the electromechanical cell, it’s been used in a variety of ways. It was used in the electrolysis of water for the very first time, and was also used to isolate various elements. The elements include Boron, Barium, Calcium, Magnesium, as well as Strontium. 

  • Opening the avenue for new areas of study

    The creation of the electromechanical cell opened the avenue for new areas of study. Namely, electricity’s chemical production and the effects of electricity in various chemicals.

  • Led extremely talented innovators into new forms of study

    Thanks to the invention of the electromechanical cell, Sir Humphry Davy and his successor Michael Faraday were led to all sorts of inventions and discoveries.

FAQ about the electromechanical cell

  • How easy is it to build your own electromechanical cell?

    While it took plenty of effort and research to develop and invent the electromechanical cell, the voltaic pile isn’t too challenging to create. You only need a few components and you can get started right away. It’s a fun little science experiment for anyone curious enough to give it a try!

  • How does the electromechanical cell work anyway?

    It works by generating electricity through chemical reactions. The funny thing is Alessandro Volta was not necessarily aware of the chemical reactions, as he thought the diverse metals were the only reason it could hold a charge. It wasn’t until Sir Humphry Davy got into the picture when the chemical reactions were discovered

  • Are there any fun ways to build the electromechanical cell?

    With a few components (primarily coins), you could potentially build a homemade battery! That said, it’s always best to exercise caution when tackling these little experiments. The way you’d build such a battery is similar to how the first electromechanical cell was built.

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