The History of Batteries on Collin’s Lab

Education Science Technology
The History of Batteries on Collin’s Lab

It’s always a thrill to see a new Collin’s Lab on Adafruit. Collin has an impressive ability to teach electronics and other often intimidating technical subjects in a way that’s crystal-clear, approachable, entertaining, and surprisingly informative. I thought I knew the thumbnail history of batteries and the evolution of battery technology, but as with any Collin video, I learned a few things (and had a few chuckles along the way).

YouTube player

Collin doesn’t just run through the battery’s history, from Ben Franklin first applying the term in 1749 to a bank of capacitors he’d wired in series, to the current use of Li-ion and Li-Po formulations. During the course of the video, Collin also builds a simple voltaic pile (the first proper battery) using squares of copper (cathode), zinc (anode), and cardboard soaked in salt water (electrolyte). By building a simple 9-cell pile, he’s able to generate over 6.3 volts and handily light a 5mm blue LED.


As one of the YouTube commenters said: “This is probably the best, concise history of batteries I’ve ever seen on YouTube.” And all of Collin’s Lab videos are equally good and highly recommended.


Did you know that, before Collin began working at Adafruit, he was an editor here at Make: and we produced the first incarnation of Collin’s Lab? You can see those videos and find links to Make: Presents, Collin’s earlier video series for Make:, and his Circuit Skills videos here.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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