Oxford’s electric bell has the longest-lasting battery in history

The Oxford Electric Bell has been in continuous operation for 181 years. The bell has been in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford since 1840. It runs continuously and the battery has never been replaced.

Oxford electric bell
Campana eléctrica de Oxford – By DavidCWG – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8857193
The Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford is recognized worldwide

The Clarendon Laboratory is part of the Department of Physics at Oxford University in the Earth Sciences. It was founded in 1872 and is the oldest in England in this specialty. In the last few years this laboratory has devoted itself specifically to the study of atomic energy, lasers and condensed matter.

It has two buildings that are side by side and are named after the first Earl of Clarendon. The laboratory hit the headlines in 2007 when it received the prestigious award for chemical reference status.

Oxford Clarendon Laboratory
Laboratorio Clarendon de Oxford – Von Jpbowen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42730760
The bell that everyone wants to see

It’s the biggest point of interest to the general public. It will be displayed in one of the corridors of the laboratory. The Oxford Electric Bell is a device with two small bells. They are made of brass and are each connected to a dry cell that Alessandro Volta invented in 1799.

It is known that all batteries gradually deteriorate over time and with use. However, this remains in good shape, although in a decade it will be two centuries. It is not known whether the Oxford Bell battery has a special composition as it was never opened. The only other feature is that it is covered in molten sulfur to prevent moisture from damaging the battery.

It has a small circular flap between the two bells. The stacks function to move the flap and take turns to do so. One bell attracts it and then repels it so that the clapper approaches the second bell, which repeats the same process. This movement is practically invisible. It cannot be heard either, as its sound is very quiet and the bell is protected with a glaze urn.

Since 1840 it has only paused twice for a few seconds due to the moisture in its mechanism. This date is reported by Robert Walker who was the original owner. He was a clergyman and professor and bought the bell to add to his collection. Other experts claim they made it in 1825.

A bell known for its longevity

The Oxford bell is notable for being one of the three oldest experiments in history. His two companions are:

  1. Beverly clock. It is a watch from the University of Otago in New Zealand that started operating in 1864.
  2. The drop of Brea. It’s a funnel that has been dripping this element continuously since 1927. It is located in Australia.

In addition, the Oxford Electric Bell is listed in the Guinness Book with the longest battery life in the world. It rang ten billion times.

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