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Before explaining what happens within one storage cell, let us look into the early history of the storage battery, and see what a modest beginning the modern heavy duty battery had. Between 1850 and 1860 a man named Plante began his work on the storage battery. His original cell consisted of two plates of metallic lead immersed in dilute sulphuric acid. The acid formed a thin layer of lead sulphate on each plate which soon stopped further action on the lead. If a current was passed through the cell, the lead sulphate on the "anode" or lead plate at which the current entered the cell was changed into peroxide of lead, while the sulphate on the other lead plate or "cathode" was changed into pure lead in a spongy form. This cell was allowed to stand for several days and was then "discharged," lead sulphate being again formed on each plate. Each time this cell was charged, more "spongy" lead and peroxide of lead were formed. These are called the "active" materials, because it is by the chemical action between them and the sulphuric acid that the electricity is produced. Evidently, the more active materials the plates contained, the longer the chemical action between the acid and active materials could take place, and hence the greater the "capacity," or amount of electricity furnished by the cell. The process of charging and discharging the battery so as to increase the amount of active material, is called "forming" the plates.
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