Home:  Scientific: ZAMBONI PILES, 1954


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A Zamboni pile is an "electrostatic battery" and is constructed from discs of silver foil, zinc foil, and paper. Discs of approx. 20 mm diameter are assembled in stacks which may be several thousand discs thick and then either compressed in a glass tube. Zamboni piles have output potentials in the kilovolt range, but current output in the nanoampere range. The famous Oxford Electric Bell which has been ringing continuously since 1840 is thought to be powered by a pair of Zamboni piles.

Donated by Ken Willis

Your comments:

  • The trouble was that the internal impedance of the pile was enormous. As a result, any trace of dampness on the outside casing was sufficient to short-circuit it, reducing the terminal voltage to zero. The military infra-red converters of WWII were in hermetically sealed cases to keep them dry. I remember buying one of these in an ex-army surplus store,and opening it up to try to get it to work, - with no luck.
    Once the damp got in, it was virtually useless.
    .......... V.J. Phillips, Swansea, Wales, 16th of January 2013

  • These were used in the WWII infra-red hand held monocular image intensifiers which produced a green image on a small screen magnified by a lens at the other end of the instrument.
    .......... Mike Goodall, Cambridgeshire, UK, 11th of November 2010

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