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Mid Twentieth Century Electrochemistry

James J. Drumm invented "the Drumm Traction Battery" (zinc-nikel alkaline battery) that was successfully employed to power a suburb train in Ireland (1932-1942). The Drumm Cell is an alkaline cell and the only metals which enter into its construction are stainless steel and pure nickel. Its mechanical strength is therefore quite satisfactory. The positive-plate system consists of the hydroxides of nickel mixed with nickel flakes. This electrode was first developed by Edison. The negative plate is a grid of nickel gauze and the electrolyte is a solution of zinc oxide in potassium hydroxide (potassium zincate). During charge zinc is plated on to the nickel grid, and during discharge this zinc dissolves readily in the potassium hydroxide.

In 1932, the inventions by engineer Francis Bacon resulted in the first successful fuel cell devices. He improved on the expensive platinum catalysts employed by Mond and Langer with a hydrogen-oxygen cell using a less corrosive alkaline electrolyte and inexpensive nickel electrodes. In 1959, a quarter of a century later, Bacon and his coworkers were able to demonstrate a practical five-kilowatt system capable of powering a welding machine.

The first sophisticated electrophoretic apparatus was developed in 1937 by Arne Tiselius , who was awarded the 1948 Nobel prize for his work in protein electrophoresis. He developed the "moving boundary," which later would become known as zone electrophoresis, and used it to separate serum proteins in solution. Electrophoresis became widely developed in the 1940's and 1950's when the technique was applied from molecules ranging from the largest proteins to amino acids or even inorganic ions.

Professor Wiktor Kemula developed the hanging mercury drop electrode (HMDE) in the late 1950's that helped launch modern electroanalytical chemistry in Warsaw. As a result hundreds of papers were published in the areas of amalgam electrochemistry, anodic and cathodic stripping, cyclic voltammetry of inorganic and organic substrates, and electron transfer rate.