Preliminary Physics Research Task - Electrical Energy in the Home

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Paul Robson �

Preliminary Physics Research Task - Electrical Energy in the Home

Question 1- Volta and Galvani

Volta invented the 'Voltaic Pile' in 1801 which was the first modern electric battery. This, for the first time, produced a continuous electric current. Volta at first approved, and then disagreed completely with Galvani's inference about animal electricity. This stated that there is electricity that is transmitted from an animal's brain to the muscles, which is then stored ready for discharge like the Leyden jar. He came to this conclusion due to experiments carried out on a frog where it was observed that, after the frog was well and truly dead, the frog's leg can still produce extensive leg movements for a considerable period if some of their nerves and muscles are connected.

This quote from the website by Pavia Project Physics puts the dilemma between the two succinctly. "For Galvani, frogs produce their own electricity; for Volta they merely reveal the electricity produced by contact between two different types of conductor."

During the debate, Galvani demonstrated the phenomena of the frog legs (without the use of metal contacts), while Volta showed the tension that is present between two metals even without the frog present. Volta also, while trying to reproduce using metals instead of biological materials the phenomena shown by Galvani's frog legs, came to discover contact potential and then the battery in 1801. The experiment performed by Volta involved making a pile of two types of metals; silver and zinc, which were separated by pieces of cardboard or cloth soaked in brine (salt water) , which Volta discovered created a small electric current of about 1-2 volts, which could be drawn off through wires. A larger current could be created by connecting multiple piles together with metal strips.