Alkaline batteries, lithium-ion batteries, potato batteries, but frog batteries?

To celebrate National Battery Day, take a moment to think how many times a day and in how many different ways you rely on batteries … cell phones, computers and tablets, cameras, hearing aids, car batteries, children’s toys, games, smoke alarms (have you checked that battery recently?), the list goes on.  Image what the world would be like if we only had frog batteries on which to rely…

Matteucci's Frog Battery
Matteucci’s Frog Battery

Yup, frog batteries.  Carlo Matteucci developed the first well-known frog battery in 1845. A frog battery is an electrochemical battery and the general term of this class of battery is the “muscular pile.” But, long before there were frog batteries, Benjamin Franklin coined the term “battery” to describe an array of charged glass plates. His “Leyden Jars” were the early form of a capacitor. He not only came up with the theories, he had to create a new language to fit them. He coined the terms battery, charge, condenser, positively and negatively among others. These are the same terms that are used today. The rechargeable battery was developed in 1859 by the French inventor, Gaston Plante, and is the battery most commonly used in cars today. However, there is now a push for greener electric cars, and there are nearly 25 electric cars on the market today.  Now the race is on to create a SuperBattery – one that can power an electric car for 300 miles. The Tesla Models X and S are the only cars that come close so far. The Supercharger stations in China are among the world’s fastest and can fully recharge a Tesla in 75 minutes.

The Tesla Model S electric car next to the Tesla electric Roadster.
The Tesla Model S electric car next to the Tesla electric Roadster.

It is even possible to build your own electric car – building from the ground up or converting an internal combustion engine to electric. According to Seth Leitman, an industry leader in Green-Eco Friendly lifestyles, there are four reasons why EVs will be around a long time: They are fun to drive and own, they are cost efficient, they are performance efficient and they are environmentally efficient.  In the latest edition of his book, “Build Your Own Electric Vehicle,” he will take you, step-by-step through building your own electric vehicle.  His books, “Build Your Own Electric Vehicle,” and “Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle” are available here in the library. The Leddy Lab in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Iowa is doing research on several areas, one of which is Fuel Cells and Batteries.  Fuel Cells are efficient and have environmental advantages which make them attractive power sources for everything from cars to laptops. Researchers at Virginia Tech are working on perfecting a sugar-powered “biobattery.” Recharging may be as simple as adding sugar. And so the development of the battery continues. From the potato batteries used in science classes to molten salt batteries, nickel-zinc batteries, rechargeable alkaline batteries, vacuum tube batteries, the sugar battery and fuel cells. And so the development of the battery continues. From the potato batteries used in science classes to molten salt batteries, nickel-zinc batteries, rechargeable alkaline batteries, vacuum tube batteries, the sugar battery and fuel cells.  I’m glad we don’t have to rely on frog batteries….


Engineering Library TL220 .B68 2013
Engineering Library TL220 .B68 2013


For more information:

Love and Ferris Wheels Just Go Together

Love and Ferris Wheels just go together!

“…Look at our small town spinning around
We got our feet dangling high off the ground
Can you believe, baby, how good it feels
Falling in love on a Ferris wheel? Falling in love…”

Ferris Wheel, written by Michael Sarver. (C) 2010 Dream Records

February 14 is not only Valentine’s Day, but also National Ferris Wheel Day! It is the birth date of George W. G. Ferris, Jr. and he is credited for creating the first large, steel amusement ride – the Ferris Wheel.

The 1893 Ferris Wheel

That first Ferris Wheel was unveiled in the summer of 1893 at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition. It was the first international exposition held in the United States and the committee wanted an engineering marvel that would overshadow France’s Eiffel Tower. Having recently ridden a fifty-foot wooden “observation roundabout,” which had been built and soon would be patented by William Somers, Ferris was inspired to enter the competition with his paper-napkin drawing of an enormous park ride. The constructed 45-foot axle-wheel powered by two 1,000 horsepower steam engines was supported by two 140-foot steel towers and it carried thirty-six wooden cars 264 feet high into the air – taller than any existing buildings!

Since the original Ferris Wheel, the world has continually been trying to out-do it. In 1897, a copy of the original was erected in Prater Park, Vienna , Austria and became the longest running Ferris wheel in history.  In 1904 the Ferris wheel was again the centerpiece of the World’s Fair, this time in St. Louis. The Texas Star was built in Italy and shipped to Dallas, Texas in 1985. It was, at that time, the tallest operating Ferris wheel at 213 feet (that is 52 feet shorter than the original 1893 wheel).

The London Eye, at 443 feet, opened to the public in 2000. The Singapore Flyer, at 541 feet, became the tallest Ferris wheel in in the world in 2008. The 682 foot tall Beijing Great Wheel was supposed to be built in 2009-2010, but the parent company went into receivership and it was never completed.


The original Ferris Wheel had 36 cabins and each one was able to carry 60 people for a total of 2,160 people per ride. There were fancy wire chairs for 38 passengers and five large plate glass windows. The cabins were 24 feet long, 10 feet high and weighed 26,000 pounds. A conductor rode in each cabin to allay fears and answer questions.

Currently, the world’s largest Ferris wheel – or Observation Wheel – is the High Roller in Las Vegas across from Ceasars Palace. It is 550 feet tall, 107 feet taller then the London Eye. In contrast to the original Ferris Wheel each of the 28 cabins is 225 square-feet and weighs approximately 44,000 pounds. Each cabin has a diameter of 22 feet and includes 300 square feet of glass. It also has 8 flat-screen televisions and an iPod dock. The High Roller is lit by 2,000 LED lights which have multiple lighting options.  Looking for that special Valentine’s Day destination wedding? You can book a VIP cabin on the High Roller and have the wedding of your dreams!

Find the nearest Ferris Wheel and maybe, just maybe, fall in love?



Circles in the Sky: The Life and Times of George Ferris. ENGN TA 140 .F455 W45 2009

Circles in the Sky

LINQ Hotel and Casino, High Roller FAQ ;

Wikipedia, High Roller (Ferris Wheel) ;

Hyde Park Historical Society Newsletter, “The Big Wheel,” Spring 2000 ;



In 1978, the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) formed the F24 committee to create standards for the design, testing, manufacturing, and operation of amusement park rides.

  • Standard Practice for Ownership, Operation, Maintenance, and Inspection of Amusement Rides and Devices, ASTM F770, Sept. 1, 2013 (4 pages)
  • Standard Practice for Measuring the Dynamic Characteristics of Amusement Rides and Devices, ASTM F2137, Aug. 1, 2013 (7 pages)
  • Standard Practice for Design of Amusement Rides and Devices, ASTM F2291, Aug. 1, 2013 (52 pages)

Celebrating Weatherpeople!

John Jeffries
John Jeffries Source: Wikipedia

Because the weather has a significant impact on our daily lives, National Weatherperson’s Day recognizes the scientists who track our major storms and atmospheric climate changes. The day commemorates the birth of John Jeffries who was born in Boston in 1745. He was a Harvard graduate and surgeon who became fascinated with observing the weather. Beginning in 1774, he daily measured and recorded the weather in Boston. Then, in 1784, he made a historical balloon flight across the English Channel to observe atmospheric conditions up close.

Weather balloons, anemometer cups and rain gauges have since been replaced with earth-orbiting satellites and computer-aided atmospheric modeling used for gathering data to predict long- and short-term meteorological events which will significantly impact our global atmosphere in terms of ozone levels and and movement of storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the United States governmental body responsible for monitoring and forecasting the weather and conducting meteorological research. NASA, too, is instrumental in researching and mapping atmosopheric changes using telescopes and space stations.

Take a moment and think of your favorite and trusted meteorologist…big hint…she is your very own engineering librarian.





Satellite Weather Radar Source: IIHR
Satellite Weather Radar Source: IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering University of Iowa


infoplease: meteorology

infoplease: weather balloon

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Meteorological Technology World Expo 2015



Atmospheric Change book cover
Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Change Engineering Library QC879.6 .A85 1999


Atmospheric chemistry and global change. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Engineering Library QC879.6 .A85 1999

Wallace, John M. Atmoshperic science: an introductory survey, 2d edition. Boston: Elsevier Academic Press, 2oo6. Engineering Library FOLIIO QC861.3 .W3 2006

Understanding Weather and Climate, 6th edition. Engineering Library QC861.3 .A38 2013. Engineering Library QC861.3 .A38 2013