Monday, December 16, 2013

This Day in Science History -- December 16 -- Johann Ritter

December 16th is Johann Wilhelm Ritter's birthday. Ritter was a German scientist who invented one of the first dry pile galvanic batteries. Early batteries used electrodes dipped in an acid solution where the energy is produced through oxidation reactions. A dry pile uses just enough moisture to function and did not have the dangers of spilling acid solutions. Ritter's pile used alternating pieces of silver and zinc foil separated by pieces of paper.

Ritter was also responsible for the discovery of the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum. While investigating the discoloration of silver salt crystals exposed to sunlight, he discovered there was a part of sunlight beyond the violet range responsible for the discoloration. He initially called this part of the light spectrum 'de-oxidizing rays' because of their chemical reactivity.

Find out more about electrochemical cells, redox reactions and what else occurred on this day in science history.

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