A couple of our C-Team members — CEO Nate Ellsworth and CFO David Farrell (our company co-founders) — were at the Smithsonian Museum as part of a March 2018 trip to the country’s capital with other business leaders from Janesville, Wis., home of our corporate headquarters.

There, the duo stumbled upon some of the earliest surviving examples of working batteries, which were originally developed by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta.

According to display literature at the Smithsonian, Volta “announced in 1800 that he could produce electricity by chemical means. His ‘pile’ or ‘battery’ (photo #1) stimulated a wide number of scientific and technical experiments” about batteries.

Have we come a long way since then.

Photo #2 shows the early “trough battery” designed by William Cruickshank in England following Volta’s principles.

Other examples on display from the early battery period included:

  • Photo #3: J. Frederik Daniell (England), 1836, modifications of which were used widely in American telegraphy;
  • Photo #4: Grenet Cell battery, 1840;
  • Photo $5: Georges Leclanché  (France), 1868.Lithium ion battery animation

Today, more than 200 years later, Lithium-Ion batteries power the lives of millions of people each day. From laptops and cell phones to hybrids and electric cars, and of course our Lithium-Ion Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems,  this technology is growing in popularity due to its light weight, high energy density, and ability to recharge quickly and often.

Here’s what Lithium-Ion batteries look like inside one of our L-Series UPS Systems:

So how do Lithium-Ion Batteries work?

This animation from the U.S. Department of Energy walks you through the process.

Animation created by Sarah Harman and Charles Joyner

Here’s more from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy:

The Basics

A battery is made up of an anode, cathode, separator, electrolyte, and two current collectors (positive and negative). The anode and cathode store the lithium. The electrolyte carries positively charged lithium ions from the anode to the cathode and vice versa through the separator. The movement of the lithium ions creates free electrons in the anode which creates a charge at the positive current collector.  The electrical current then flows from the current collector through a device being powered (cell phone, computer, etc.) to the negative current collector. The separator blocks the flow of electrons inside the battery.


While the battery is discharging and providing an electric current, the anode releases lithium ions to the cathode, generating a flow of electrons from one side to the other. When plugging in or charging the device, the opposite happens: Lithium ions are released by the cathode and received by the anode.