Oh Yes! Secondary Batteries Made From Junkyard Scrap!

“A room-temperature chemical process is developed to convert brass and steel into functional electrodes for rechargeable energy storage that transforms these multicomponent alloys into redox-active iron oxide and copper oxide materials. The resulting steel–brass battery exhibits cell voltages up to 1.8 V, energy density up to 20 Wh/kg, power density up to 20 kW/kg, and stable cycling over 5000 cycles in alkaline electrolytes.”
 
See From the Junkyard to the Power Grid: Ambient Processing of Scrap Metals into Nanostructured Electrodes for Ultrafast Rechargeable Batteries
Not since the evil sorcerer tried to obtain Aladdin’s Lamp by offering new lamps for old has there been such a story. Scrap steel which is a byproduct of welding, machining and eventual scrapping of all kinds of steel machinery and materials, and scrap brass, produced in copious amounts at shooting ranges and recycling of all kinds of goods made of brass ( an alloy of copper and zinc ) are cheap and plentiful. I have many kilos of the stuff just hanging around. My welding stubs and cutoffs are a steady supply of steel scrap. My collecting at shooting ranges and out in the fields and forests amounts to kilograms per annum. Electricians produce a fair bit of waste copper annually too. The stuff is available for pennies a pound if I wanted larger quantities.

That one can make decent heavy discharge/frequent recycling storage batteries from such cheap stuff is absolutely wonderful. I may not need to import NiFe batteries from India or China to go solar/wind… This is so cool.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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12 Responses to Oh Yes! Secondary Batteries Made From Junkyard Scrap!

  1. oiaohm says:

    EH? Never heard of a flux that would take my skin off, nor have I ever seen the need to wear gloves when soldering. Obviously, here again, you do not know what the hell you are taking about.
    http://www.google.com/patents/US4568395
    Really this just shows how little you know. Notice the precleaner fluxs can be high strength nitric acid and sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid not only to clean the surface but roughen the surface so the solder in fact sticks also contains the metal its cleaned in solution. When I say high strength I mean greater than 38% acid.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrochloric_acid
    Yes Hydrocloric acid 38%+ is auto vapour creating.

    Not only do you get a hands burnt from these pre-cleaner fluxes you also end up with what ever heavy metal surface you are soldering in your blood stream. Yes due to the insane strength and the fact the acid can be mixed then gloves can be worthless as anything more than a delay. So apply and take off and dump gloves and put another set on.

    adulterated sulfuric acid battery acid is 37% so unless you have not properly topped up water too week to be used as a precleaner flux as is.

    LOL… you an idiot, you know that? Battery acid, which is adulterated sulfuric acid, is equally dangerous as hydrochloric acid
    LOL learn to read there is no Acid in the battery type covered in the document Robert is referred to about using scrap metals.

    This mix in this experiment is Ammonium fluoride and Ethylene Glycol with a PH in the alkaline direction. Scary enough you are looking at a battery that does not get acidic enough to damage hands or alkaline enough to damage hands. In fact starts off in the Alkaline range with numbers greater than 7 around 12 in fact and never gets acidic. The battery over abused will end up with a PH of 7 because the Ethylene Glycol will burn off.

    Dougman the battery described in the paper is not a acid battery. Yes batteries come in two forms Alkaline and Acid. Ethylene Glycol you don’t see in acid based batteries.

    Steel batteries are normally a strong Alkaline like Potassium Hydroxide. Of course a really strong Alkaline like Potassium Hydroxide can be just as risky as sulfuric acid just the other way when the ratio is high.

    Not all electric cars are created equal in batteries either.
    http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/safety_of_lithium_ion_batteries
    So dougman being normal idiot.

    Currently there is no regulation on what batteries electric cars has to use. Of course some choices are way more likely to burn than others.

    Tesla has chosen to use nickel cobalt aluminum chemistry (NCA) lithium ion batteries. Little problem here not the worst lithium ion battery but each burning NCA cell produces more heat than it consumed to burn so you have accelerating fire. So of course a Tesla is going to burn out badly. But the fire fuel load in a Tesla is still less than what is sitting in a cars normal petrol tank. Yes the normal petrol tank has had more regulation on containment so less to go up. So regulation here has not caught up with the age. So NCA with mandated form of something like a fuel cell for fire suppression would be safer than a fuelled car.

    nickel-manganese-cobalt(NMC) that is used by medical and military stores the same amount of power per l and per kg costs more yet way less likely to burst into flames. NMC happens to be burn neutral. So it it burning consumers as much heat as it produces. So does not speed up or slow down a fire. Again add some form of fire suppression material this would be safer than a fueled car.

    If you are talking really safe you are talking “Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)” that has not a single case ever of thermal run away because it chemically cannot do this. Lithium Iron Phosphate battery type acts as a fire suppressant because it takes more heat to burn than what heat it produces.

    Attempting to convey that electric vehicles are safer in crashes is preposterous.
    LOL idiot. The reality is we have multi electric vehicles with different battery types. Some electric vehicles due to battery chemistry and fire suppression are in fact safer in crash.

    So this is not a black and white answer. Yes telsa cars look cool would I own one with the battery type telsa has choose to use no way in hell.

    We most likely need some regulation mandating types of batteries allowed in electric cars and trucks and buses and aircraft.

    dougman I would not say driving over a bumper is stupid or preventable. Have you seen the back side of a metal bumper its blackish close to road colour because a lot were coated with tar to protect them from rust. So driving over a metal bumper can happen because it can look like a minor road defect.

    “Continuing to drive, AFTER running over said bumper is STUPID.”
    You did not see it on road you have only heard thump under car and with some highly sound proofed cars you don’t even hear that or you had the music up. So continuing to drive was the radio on loud or car well sound proofed so they did not even hear it.

    “Leaving the scene of an accident, is against the LAW.”
    Was there another car involved directly the answer is no. USA law is like Australian law on this one retreating away from a car/truck on fire is in fact allowed.

    “Letting a passenger burn to death, COWARDLY. ”
    No it what happens when you in fact obey fire evacuation rules. Once you are to a safe location you are to perform a head count. You are not to attempt to perform a head count while running from the fire.

    So basically every one of those statements is made by a idiot.

  2. dougman says:

    Driving over a bumper IS preventable.

    Continuing to drive, AFTER running over said bumper is STUPID.

    Leaving the scene of an accident, is against the LAW.

    Letting a passenger burn to death, COWARDLY.

    Attempting to convey that electric vehicles are safer in crashes is preposterous.

    Your reasoning is horrible, to say the least.

  3. dougman says:

    “Please do note when soldering you do use flux ratios at times that will take you skin off if you touch it even with gloves(because it ate through the gloves).”

    EH? Never heard of a flux that would take my skin off, nor have I ever seen the need to wear gloves when soldering. Obviously, here again, you do not know what the hell you are taking about.

    “So its know your flux materials or burn hands badly and possible have toxin in blood.”

    I may have burned myself a few types with solder, but never flux and never achieved getting toxins in my blood from doing so.

    “The acid out a lead acid battery is way more dangerous than the mix in this experiment.”

    LOL… you an idiot, you know that? Battery acid, which is adulterated sulfuric acid, is equally dangerous as hydrochloric acid. I am not going to give you a eff’n chemistry lesson as to why, but hydrochloric acid is the stronger of the two. It has a pKa around -6.3 while the pKa of sulfuric acid is only around -3.

  4. dougman says:

    This is why one should not drive electric cars.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY5YudGurBk

  5. oiaohm says:

    Please explain, this “soldiering metals”.
    Nothing more than a typo that spell checkers don’t find. soldering metals. Yes you use flux to prep the surface and flux is made from many different things.

    Please do note when soldering you do use flux ratios at times that will take you skin off if you touch it even with gloves(because it ate through the gloves). So its know your flux materials or burn hands badly and possible have toxin in blood.

    Nothing there was that dangerous. The acid out a lead acid battery is way more dangerous than the mix in this experiment.

  6. dougman says:

    Please explain, this “soldiering metals”.

  7. oiaohm says:

    dougman
    Continuing further, you find a listing of chemicals.
    – Hydrochloric Acid
    – Potassium Hydroxide
    – Ethylene Glycol

    All three of which are VERY dangerous.
    Hydrochloric Acid and Postassium Hydroxide and Ethylene Glyol is used with soldiering metals as part of different flux mixs. The ratios listed are lower than what is classed as human touchable for soldering. So as long as you don’t drink the stuff and wash you hands there is nothing that toxic in the requirements at the ratios talked about.

    Disinfectant wipes are 5% Ethylene Glycol to water. So 3% is well inside the safe limit for human skin. Ammonium fluoride NH4F does not effect human skin. So its a fairly safe electrolyte mix you could technically wash your hands in it before its been used with the metals. Sorry nothing like being your normal idiot. Danger level of chemical is based on how stupid you are with it and how strong it is and what it is. Yes eating Disinfectant wipes is more toxic than the electrolyte mix in this case. Of course drinking/eating Ethylene Glycol is not good idea. Compared to most battery electrolyte mixes this one is very much on the safer side due to how weak solution the mix is.

    Also that experiment was done without recasting the materials and taking what was found. So there might be a few machines out there where you take what was already produced and cut and reassemble it.

    http://www.allaboutbatteries.com/Battery-Energy.html
    20 Wh/kg is on the low side. Something to consider is that steel and brass combination is quite a bit lighter than lead and surface area does align to mass. For stationary set-ups Wh/kg is not the most important fact but density level being Wh/liter value.

    LION have high Wh/kg and fairly high Wh/liter. They do state Alkaline cell type so this might not be the lightest battery but it could still have impressive power storage density there are Alkaline cells out there with better Wh/liter than LION normally not with as good of recharge life. These tests report good recharging cycling. Maybe someone has found a combination for Alkaline rechargeable cells that in fact works.

    Basically the document lacks the 1 figure I need to know if this will or will not have a use in future. LION is good for items you are transporting due to its Wh/kg its not the highest power storage density battery type in existence in Wh/liter. Batteries fall basically into 2 usage cases. One requires high Wh/kg the other requires high Wh/liter. LION is a fairly good all round. The battery described in the paper could make good stationary battery if the Wh/liter is high enough. At 20wh/kg its not going to be a laptop or electric car battery yet for solar and wind storage in a building the question is Wh/liter because floor area is more important than mass in that case. Of course the first experiments with batteries you don’t get the Wh/liter because working out how high of density can be used is a lot more work than getting the Wh/kg figures.

    My guesses is this new battery would work out in Wh/liter at least matching lead acid and being safer than lead acid and LION due to using lot weaker electrolyte made from less harmful chemicals than the normal LION or Lead acid electrolyte use. Why I see that it could have a place but we will not know until we have tested Wh/liter numbers.

    Iron/steel and Brass is not a new battery type either. The electrolyte this time around is very different compared to historic Iron/Steel. What is the difference is the usage of Ammonium fluoride and Ethylene Glycol with instead of Potassium Hydroxide. It would be good if dougman in fact learnt to read instead of guess work. Yes the steel brass battery in the paper Robert quoted is Potassium Hydroxide free once assembled.

  8. dougman wrote, “when was the last time you melted down scrap and cast it?”

    About a year ago, I made another batch of 1 ounce slugs and .535 lead balls for hunting. I’ve been doing stuff like that for decades. I’ve accumulated lots of steel and copper and aluminium scrap for casting. I intended to use a forced-air charcoal melter for the aluminium. It sounds like a grinding process would be more appropriate for the steel/copper in this process. Thanks for giving us a $free peek at the details. I have no problem dealing with reactive chemicals. I’ve been doing that for decades too. What the annealing does is remove strains in the metal so that it will keep its shape and not shed the surface oxides. I’m used to doing that at red heat in a propane flame and dunking in water for cartridges. Another process doesn’t concern me much.

    Whether I make my own cells or someone else does it, this technology will be much less expensive than things like lithium or nickel which are quite expensive due to scarcity. Iron and copper are much more plentiful.

    Some chemistry…
    – Hydrochloric Acid can be bought in hardware stores for cleaning concrete of surface stains/salts. It can also be obtained by distillation from a solution of sodium chloride in sulphuric acid, another cheap and plentiful acid made from sulphur.
    – Potassium Hydroxide happens every time rain falls on wood ashes. Get over it. It’s of a class of chemicals that used to be used in the manufacture of soap, you know, that stuff that has a slippery feeling on the skin. If you need higher concentrations, you can electrolyze potash (KCl).
    – Ethylene Glycol is the major ingredient in antifreeze found in most automobile engines. It is toxic. Don’t drink it. It can also burn. Don’t set it on fire.

    What may be dangerous/difficult for some is safe and easy for people who are educated/experienced/know what the heck they are doing.

  9. dougman says:

    Oh No! You are suffering from dementia. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the process is above your pay-grade.

    The obtained scrap carbon steel (1010 steel) and brass sheets (Yellow brass, 67%
    Cu/33% Zn) were cut into small squares and subjected to ultrasonic cleaning using acetone, ethanol and water for 10 min each. For the preparation of iron oxide nanorods, the steel samples were subjected to potentiostatic anodization at 40 V for 900 seconds using a Keithley sourcemeter. The electrolyte used in this case contained 0.05M NH4F in 3 vol% of water with ethylene glycol. The anodized steel samples were washed with water and dried in air. To stabilize the surface oxide, an annealing step was added where the sheets were subjected to a temperature of 350 oC for 1 hour under Ar(1SLM)/H2 (200 sccm) flow.

    Also, look at the required recycling process.
    – Collection
    – Separation
    – Shearing
    – Shredding
    – Melting
    – Purification
    – Casting

    Let me ask you, when was the last time you melted down scrap and cast it?

    Continuing further, you find a listing of chemicals.
    – Hydrochloric Acid
    – Potassium Hydroxide
    – Ethylene Glycol

    All three of which are VERY dangerous.

    None of the scrap that you collected from any/all of your projects, will be reconstituted into a battery.

    BTW, notice that the link is a paywall. In addition, they used Microsoft Word to compose the abstract. Oh No!

  10. dougman wrote, “You and I will never see that type of battery, as LION are ~250 Wh/kg.”

    If it’s sitting in my garage or on a pad in the garden, I don’t care that much about the density of storage but the cost. Scrap material costs less.

  11. dougman says:

    You and I will never see that type of battery, as LION are ~250 Wh/kg.

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