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Nickel-Iron 'Edison' Batteries

 
pollinator
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Jason Learned : With regular Lead-acid batteries, we have a very corrosive environment that could easily cause contamination ! While the Edison-Iron Batteries have a
very strong Base. I expect that contamination of the H2 storing medium would be very hard to avoid as both High and Low ph Environments can catalyze or themselves
react indiscriminately with their environment ! Isolating the two environments, the H2 gas producing and the H2 gas/solid storing environments would create additional
pathways for the loss of Our H2!

Perhaps the very Slipperiness and small molecule size of the H2 molecule would lend itself to transport across a semi-permiable membrane with Nano-graphine
class Atom sized pore spaces !

I do wonder though if the amount of H2 produced, even over a 24hr period would be enough for a Fleischmann - Pons Cigar lighter ! - Though any source of Free H2
should be investigated !

I was unable to determine much about the Angels Nest system from the Online Public Release information from Its manufacturer Linde Industrial Gas, -they may be
trying to use a little house cleaning to distance themselves from that Grand failure !

Again, what often happens is some one publishes a paper saying " When I did this- X happened !!! " "Did anyone else get similar results " Years, even decades latter
someone else finds a way to make 'IT' do work. We need all the original thinkers we can get ! For the good of the Crafts ! Big AL


Breaking news - See a new topic on Aluminum Air batteries in ALT Energy forum ( Think R. Heinleins "Ship stone ") A.L.
 
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Catalytic caps are available. Why not keep the hydrogen in the battery cell where it can be turned back into the electrolyte. More efficient than having to buy or make distilled water.

 
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Mike Cantrell wrote:

Richard Hauser wrote:
<...>
The first usable tech is microhydro,
<...>
The second tech is pneumatic storage
<...>
The second tech points to the third tech, thermal storage.
<...>
The last energy storage is the one we are most accustomed to, wood.
<...>




There's a wonderful blog called Do The Math, written by a physics prof at UC San Diego. I'm going to link to one particular article here in a second, but before I do, I feel like I should promote him a little bit- just about every single thing he's written there has been pure gold. He goes into specifics on all of these energy topics, and like the titled of the blog suggests, he goes through an issue and does the math.

I'd encourage EVERYBODY who's interested in alternative energy to go to the beginning of his archive and read all his articles . They're a magnificent education. But I'll spoil the ending for you, too: the main answer to the world's electricity needs is a photovoltaic system on most roofs. The world's need for liquid fuels just has to shrink. That what he says, anyway.

Ok, back to the point. The author takes up these exact issues here:
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/09/got-storage-how-hard-can-it-be/

Here are some of the highlights.

Let's start small by considering the 3 W-h of energy stored in a AA battery, as computed above. One kWh of energy is 3.6x106 J of energy, so our AA battery stores 10,800 J of energy. A mass of m kilograms, hoisted h meters high against gravity at g=10 m/s^2 corresponds to E = mgh Joules of energy. If we were willing to hoist a mass 3 m high, how much mass would we need to replace the AA battery? Have a guess? The answer is 360 kg, or about 800 lb. A battery the size of your pinky finger beats the proverbial 800 lb gorilla lifted onto your roof!
The lesson is that gravitational storage is incredibly weak. A volume of water the size of our bedroom raised even 10 m above our home in a precarious threat to the neighbors would store 0.625 kWh. That’s enough for 30 minutes of typical household electricity consumption. You’ll forgive me if I ignore efficiency losses. It’s not even worth the effort.





Electrolysis for the production of hydrogen tends to range between 50-70% efficient. Then the fuel cell converts the stored energy back into electricity at 40-60% efficiency for a round-trip efficiency of 20-40%. If you happen to want some of the waste heat, then you might boost the efficiency estimate (true for any of these storage methods, actually). But in a straight-up apples-to-apples comparison, the hydrogen method is a very lossy storage option. If it were dirt cheap and low-tech, I might be more excited about its potential, despite the poor efficiency. But since the opposite is true, I’m not revved up over hydrogen storage.

I spent some time searching for a hydrogen fuel cell that I could buy today with a rating in the 10 kW range (appropriate for a home). I saw some production models achieving efficiencies ranging from 40-53%, but never a price tag. If you have to submit a query to learn the price, you probably can't afford it...





We could store energy in something akin to a spring by compressing air.
The efficiency for compressing the air and later turning a turbine for electricity generation may be less than what one might find for a flywheel. The storage itself is not the hard part. I could go out today and get some lab-sized cylinders (~50 liters), which could store 1.5 kWh each- about like a golf-cart battery, although heavier and bulkier. But I would have a very difficult time arranging an efficient pumping and extraction/turbine system. If not for that, I would find compressed air to be an attractive system compared to batteries: minimal maintenance; no apparent cycle limitations, reasonably low-tech, and perfectly tolerant of remaining at low charge indefinitely.




This guy knows what he is talking about.
 
Brandon Williams
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There's a wonderful blog called Do The Math, written by a physics prof at UC San Diego. I'm going to link to one particular article here in a second, but before I do, I feel like I should promote him a little bit- just about every single thing he's written there has been pure gold. He goes into specifics on all of these energy topics, and like the titled of the blog suggests, he goes through an issue and does the math.

I'd encourage EVERYBODY who's interested in alternative energy to go to the beginning of his archive and read all his articles . They're a magnificent education. But I'll spoil the ending for you, too: the main answer to the world's electricity needs is a photovoltaic system on most roofs. The world's need for liquid fuels just has to shrink. That what he says, anyway.




This article by the same author describes exactly how and when his lead acid battery failed...

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/12/death-of-a-battery/

 
allen lumley
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Chris Lyons : Every old shade tree mechanic has an exploding Battery story, and this should not be taken lightly,- But, 10,000 ampere hours of service life seems like
3 years ? Or less ? I only found one company, Hydrocaps $9 each U.S., and nothing on ebay Time to bring out the still !
 
allen lumley
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Chris Lyons : Every old shade tree mechanic has an exploding Battery story, and this should not be taken lightly,- But, 10,000 ampere hours of service life seems like
3 years ? Or less ? I only found one company, Hydrocaps $9 each U.S., and Nothing on ebay! Time to bring out the still ! Big AL
 
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I just saw that the Company Iron Edison will now be selling US Made Ni-Fe batteries.


http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=d832c729f5703f36b225522d1&id=c038f612c3&e=e0bde57760
 
pollinator
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Erik Little wrote:I just saw that the Company Iron Edison will now be selling US Made Ni-Fe batteries.


http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=d832c729f5703f36b225522d1&id=c038f612c3&e=e0bde57760



That makes the forklift batteries look like a really good deal Space/weight/power/price wise. Yes, these will last longer, but at least in my case, not to be cost effective in my life time. There is no reason to believe that those I leave behind will find any batteries of use... I have watched my father buy boxes of new electronics parts from widows for a penny on the dollar. Now my mother will be doing the same with most of that. I don't have the room (literal room with four walls in this case) or the money to move it all here. Things we hold dear are often of no use to the next generation. (I am thankful for the tools I have gotten so far though)

Just a thought, maybe try looking for old flooded NiCd batteries at you local airport. They are used in planes to save space, but many people replace them with lead acid because of maintenance costs. Flooded NiCds (and NiFe may be similar) can not be assessed for life by checking things like SG and voltage as lead acid can. They have to be flattened and recharged with monitoring to determine if they are fit for use. This is very expensive if you are paying an aircraft mechanic to do it as it takes 24 hours. SO many good ones are removed and sitting around. Their life time is similar to NiFe plus they have a much greater instantaneous current rating than either lead acid or NiFe. The flooded style are much more robust than the sealed AA NiCd batteries are.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:Steven Harris just sent me this email:

I own NiFe batteries, I have since 1994. I know them well. The BIG reason to NOT buy them, they are incredibly expensive, they are charging you 9x the price of a lead acid and guarantying you only 5x the life. NiFe batteries are VERY inefficient, which means a significant fraction of the energy you put in, does not get stored, something like around 25%. They are VERY VERY gassy, that is why there is such a huge head space on them to hold SO MUCH extra water, which MUST be distilled water ONLY. They have a high rate of self discharge, so if you just leave them there, they can loose 10% or more of their charge PER DAY.

so yeah...they have a very long life, but everything else they have is a huge disadvantage.



I wonder if these are good tradeoffs and how great a tradeoff it really is. I'm new to off-grid power but the place I purchased has a SolarOne battery that is supposed to last 15 years. The sytem is configured to require a full charge every 3 days and an equalization charge once a month. During the summer this is fine but to qualify for a full charge or equalization charge I would need to run the generator for an extended period of time, up to 3 hours after fully charged. Since NiFe batteries are more forgiving does this level the playing field? I'm not quite as concerned about the self discharge since in my eyes both the lead acid battery I have now and the NiFe will require regular charging.

Is the NiFe battery overrated? I like the idea of it lasting forever but not so sure i like that it requires constant water input. From a self sufficiency standpoint, unless i am making distilled water, the system requires more input.

-Josh
 
Brandon Williams
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Here are some Nickel Iron batteries that I have personally installed.





 
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Huge discussion of nickel iron batteries on this podcast. Thought you all would enjoy!

Solar Powered Homestead Part 3

 
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OK, so I read the link and I did the math, so here is what you need.
First, unlike the article, I am not looking for an in-home gravity water solution, that is silly.

So per the article, what we need is a 100kWh energy storage solution to give us three days of power.
But unlike the article, I am not winching it over my head, I am putting it up on a hill.

So, in the article you get a couple of pertinent formulas:
g = 10 m/s^2 (it is really 9.80665 m/s^2, but that makes everything messier)
E = mass * g * height
One kWh of energy is 3.6×10^6 J of energy

So to check these numbers we can run them for a AA battery.
E= 3Wh = .003kWh = 10800 J
m=E/(g*height)
If h(height) = 3m
g = 360 kg (just like the article)
Since 1kg of water = 1L of water = 0.001 m^3 of water
360 kg = 360l of water or for us non-metric people, 95.1 gallons of water, so two 55 gallon drums each 86% full

Now for a house, per the article, we need 100kWh
E = 100kWh = 360,000,000 J
If, unlike the article, the height is 100m...
So, we need 360,000 kg of water, which is a lot, as it is 360 m^3 of water

or a theoretical pond 3m deep, 10m wide and 12m long

Then we need to add in looses due to friction in the piping and change our pond into something that has sloping sides...
So to convert back to non-metric units, say a 9' deep pond 50' across (tough to estimate slope, etc., so I leave that to the reader.)
Anyway you cut it, it is a big pond, but not insane, as it would create a power supply that would last decades and is repairable by regular artisans.
 
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I would like to respond to the what Steven Harris said about the nickel iron batteries:

Questions 1. ​ "Steven Harris just sent me this email: I own NiFe batteries, I have since 1994. I know them well. The BIG reason to NOT buy them, they are incredibly expensive, they are charging you 9x the price of a lead acid and guarantying you only 5x the life.

Answer 1: In reality, a nickel iron battery cost about double the price of a good lead acid battery. For example, a 12V, 263Ah Sun Xtender Sealed AGM Lead Acid Battery cost $650.00 online. This battery is rated at 1,850 cycles @ 30% DOD, which is 5 years. A comparable Nickel Iron Battery would be the Iron Edison 12V, 100Ah battery. The Iron Edison Battery is rated at 7200+ cycles, which is 20+ years. This battery will cost you $900.00.

So, if you are off grid and using your battery everyday, over a 20 years period you would have to replace that lead acid battery bank 4 times. With Nickel Iron you will never have to replace the battery, so over a 20 year period, you would have definitely saved money.

Questions 2: NiFe batteries are VERY inefficient, which means a significant fraction of the energy you put in, does not get stored, something like around 25%.

Answer 2: I am going to break this answer down into 2 parts. First, we are going to talk about Nickel Iron Battery efficiency, and then we will talk about Lead Acid Battery efficiency.

Nickel Iron Batteries are about 75% Efficient. We tested the cells at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and below are the results. Overall at normal temps, the out performed their rated capacity between 75-80% efficiency.

http://ironedison.com/images/Spec%20Sheets/Test%20Results/NREL%20TEST%20RESULTS%20-%20Amp%20hours%20capacity.jpg


Lead Acid Battery Efficiency - Below is a link to the Sandia National Laboratories results on Lead Acid Battery Efficiency. According to this document, they found out that when you are only using the top 20-30% of a battery, it really only has a charge efficiency of 55%. http://ironedison.com/images/Spec%20Sheets/Test%20Results/Sandia%20Labs%20Lead%20Acid%20Efficiency%20Test.pdf

So after looking at the actual data - the nickel iron battery is more efficient than a lead acid battery in daily off-grid charging.


Question 3: They are VERY VERY gassy, that is why there is such a huge head space on them to hold SO MUCH extra water, which MUST be distilled water ONLY.

Answer 3: Nickel Iron Batteries do off-gas a little more than a lead acid battery, but this is because of the differences in the batteries chemistry. Both a wet lead acid and nickel iron battery require to be put in a battery box and we recommend using a vent fan.

The Nickel Iron Battery produces hydrogen when the battery pushes the oxygen from the water molecule to increase the oxygen concentration on the nickel plate. The head space is not huge on a nickel iron battery, but you do want an area for the electrolyte so you are not having to fill the battery with distilled water all the time.

A wet lead acid battery produces hydrogen through inefficient charging, when the electricity not used from charging is spent on splitting a water atom.

Both a wet Lead acid battery and Nickel Iron Battery uses distilled water only. A sealed lead acid battery does not need water and does not off-gas, but has a shorter life if cycled everyday.


Question 4: They have a high rate of self discharge, so if you just leave them there, they can loose 10% or more of their charge PER DAY.

Answer 4: Nickel Iron Batteries have a 1 % self discharge rate. If you are wanting a battery that will just sit there and not be used, then you might want a sealed lead acid battery. Sealed lead acid batteries are good for people that are not using their battery and want it to sit and hold its power in case the power goes out once a year or so.

If you plan on using your battery every day, it really does not matter if it discharges 1%, because you are going to charge up the battery and use the batteries power that day.



Steven Harris has said these type of statements before to others, so we have actually reached out to him directly to talk to him about his system. We think his equipment settings are probably not set up appropriately. He did not want to talk to us about his equipment or equipment settings.
 
Richard Hauser
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Please quantify the 1% self discharge number.
i.e. If you are off-grid and use solar to charge up your batteries to 100%, but then have a long storm so you get no charge for one week, where will the batteries be?
This is an important decision point in a design, because it will be a constant drain on the system, so it could be a limit the overall power you get out of a solar setup.
Wikipedia is listing 20-30% per month, so are you saying 1% per day?
 
Len Ovens
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Maggie Williams wrote:

Lead Acid Battery Efficiency - Below is a link to the Sandia National Laboratories results on Lead Acid Battery Efficiency. According to this document, they found out that when you are only using the top 20-30% of a battery, it really only has a charge efficiency of 55%. http://ironedison.com/images/Spec%20Sheets/Test%20Results/Sandia%20Labs%20Lead%20Acid%20Efficiency%20Test.pdf



This is the the big thing to remember about about lead acid batteries. You can't use most of it... if you want it to last. When comparing power storage chemistry, it is important to compare the usable portion of the battery's capacity. It is also important to remember that the charging/loading circuitry has to be able to make use of the battery's capacity for that comparison to work. That is, if a NiFe battery can take being drained more than a Pb battery, it is of no use if the inverter shuts off before it reaches that point or the voltage is too low to run lamps, etc. directly. This is something to watch for with LED lamps which do have a minimum voltage below which they no longer get dimmer but turn off completely (they do have a diode drop). High power LEDs may be placed in series so the voltage drop is close to the battery voltage and a small amount of resistance can limit the current... this is power wasted across the resistor. Or a small switching power supply can be used instead... same as an inverter (same technology even) but puts out dc instead of ac. The biggest problem with battery chemistry outside of Pb is getting chargers/inverters that not only work with them, but make the best use of them. In my opinion, it is these external components that have kept other types of batteries from being more popular. The big problem with NiFe is available current output as compared to the size. (in reality Pb are better but still poor which is why car batteries are so over sized) This drawback may not even be noticed in a homestead power situation with a good inverter (that has hefty capacitors in it), but would be noticed in a drive train application.

I personally think that with the advances in power switching technology, some of the battery types we have discarded deserve a second look. Certainly NiFe is one of them, but I think NiCd is another that could work at even smaller sizes than NiFe (amp hour wise... much smaller physically) as they have very good surge ability. The sealed type NiCd would probably be ok, but the flooded type should be able to be as robust and long lasting as NiFe. It is unfortunate that their major use (In aircraft) was a poor match and has given them a bad name (testing is very expensive and planes require battery performance testing by law). If you can find some at your local airport that someone has taken out of their plane it is worthwhile getting them.

I wonder what other technologies we have "forgotten" or written off as no good because of poor application.
 
Len Ovens
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Richard Hauser wrote:Please quantify the 1% self discharge number.
i.e. If you are off-grid and use solar to charge up your batteries to 100%, but then have a long storm so you get no charge for one week, where will the batteries be?
This is an important decision point in a design, because it will be a constant drain on the system, so it could be a limit the overall power you get out of a solar setup.
Wikipedia is listing 20-30% per month, so are you saying 1% per day?



Ya, per day. About the same as NiMha. Not sure off the top of my head what lead acid is. However, that 1%/day is fully charged, same with the 20-30%/month. As the charge level goes down so does the leakage. That is why the monthly leakage rate already looks better than the daily rate. So assuming on day one we use 10% of the charge, we would be down 11%, the next day we use 10%, now we would be down 21.9%. Day three use of 10% might put us at 32.7%... Of course by this time the lead acid owner is already thinking how they can conserve...

With a lead acid battery, you are already limited with how much you can draw in a week long no solar gain time. If you over discharge them and then have to replace them it is still a loss. At some point the user looks at what they have and asks themselves, "how do I make do with what I have?"

It is the same no matter what technology one uses. Most people have a backup genset for the "odd event". In fact it is pretty common to run a genset once week (to make sure it is still working right) at which time the batteries are topped off and any high draw work is done. (sort of defeats the purpose of off grid living in some ways)
 
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Maggie Williams wrote:I would like to respond to the what Steven Harris said about the nickel iron batteries:

Questions 1. ​ "Steven Harris just sent me this email: I own NiFe batteries, I have since 1994. I know them well. The BIG reason to NOT buy them, they are incredibly expensive, they are charging you 9x the price of a lead acid and guarantying you only 5x the life.

Answer 1: In reality, a nickel iron battery cost about double the price of a good lead acid battery. For example, a 12V, 263Ah Sun Xtender Sealed AGM Lead Acid Battery cost $650.00 online. This battery is rated at 1,850 cycles @ 30% DOD, which is 5 years. A comparable Nickel Iron Battery would be the Iron Edison 12V, 100Ah battery. The Iron Edison Battery is rated at 7200+ cycles, which is 20+ years. This battery will cost you $900.00.

So, if you are off grid and using your battery everyday, over a 20 years period you would have to replace that lead acid battery bank 4 times. With Nickel Iron you will never have to replace the battery, so over a 20 year period, you would have definitely saved money.



I don't arrive at the same result. I arrive at the conclusion, that NiFe cost 5-10x more over a lifetime. Could someone please point out to me where my math goes wrong.

I've been quoted a 48V Moll OPzS 1870 at about 505€, they have 1470 Ah @ C10. This battery is rated at 3000 cycles @ 50% DOD. Lets go with 5 years lifetime. A comparable Iron Edison 48V, 800Ah will last 20 years at a cost of $29440 ≈ 22163€.

Replacing the lead acid battery 4 times costs me 2022€, making the NiFe 11x more expensive. If I replace them every year or buy two and replace them every second year, the NiFe is only twice as expensive.

Where did I go wrong in my calculations?

I am looking for a storage solution, that will have the lowest life time cost, but so far, this is the best I've found. We haven't purchased our solar system yet, so I'm open for any suggestions.

 
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A comment on using 3D printing. Because of the likely micro flaws in the printing and because the the relatively small build volumes of 3D printers I don't think that technology is a good fit by itself for building these cases. Probably cheaper and easier would be to buy sheet hdpe and simply weld it in to cases. Then if you needed internal structures to act as separators and supports print those and weld them into the case as needed. The factory produced sheets of poly would be less likely to have the micro flaws that printed materials can have and welding plastics with modern tools is fairly easy. Plus the sheet material would be far cheaper than the same material produced by a 3D printer.
 
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NO... none of it could be done in a home shop or done cheaply. There is not enough hydrogen coming off to put a $5000 or $10,000 fuel cell onto it for anything. If it was worth it, the people selling the fricken NiFe batteries would be selling it as an add on.

Steve
 
Marcus Hoff
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Marcus Hoff wrote:
Where did I go wrong in my calculations?



If no one else will correct my calculations, I guess I just have to do it myself.

I got the price wrong on my battery. It's 11.952 € Making the NiFe only about twice as expensive. I don't know at what usage level the Iron Edison batteries are listed, but most of the NiFe batteries I've seen are listed at C5, which makes the price difference smaller, since a comparable battery would be more like 600 Ah. I've actually found some NiFe batteries from Changhong, which are only about 10% more expensive then the lead acid ones. This makes them very attractive.

So, sorry for posting bad calculations - and I will definitely go for NiFe batteries when we get our system.
 
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There is an effort to make a DIY blueprints for NiFe. Is there any experience in such field?
Maybe someone knows success stories or caveats?
 
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I am an off grid lifer, been here 17 years won't ever, willingly, choose to go back. We electrified 11-12 years ago with 24v Trojan L-16HC. I was quite careful with my maintenance and that bank lasted me nine years of daily cycling. However, the last 6 months were dismal at best. Anyway, I mention the history as it is my only defense against ignorance about batteries. No science understanding, just seat of the pants daily charge and discharge.

A couple years ago, when replacement was needed, we decide on Iron Nickel and on Iron Edison as the dealer. I cannot say enough positive things about Brandon and Maggie Williams (owners of Iron Edison). Stellar individuals that really have there customers in mind and do ALL they can to help and ensure the product is understood and performing properly. I do love my batteries and I think the payoff will come but, obviously, that is along time from now. I have a neighbor with IN cells and we have fiddled and think we have found the sweet spot for DOD cycling parameters and it requires a more detailed description about what happens when you pass ~40-50% discharge. We have noticed that the cells discharged below 50% all the way to 80% discharge behave in line with the literature. That is, they will recharge and show no damage. They will fully recharge, however, the amount of energy to recharge the the 50-80% portion of the deep discharge is much greater than the energy required to recharge 30% on the top 40-50%. That is the only qualification I feel that the literature/information needs. You can deep discharge without damage but it will cost you to smile at the e-meter again.

Since we have backed off to a 40% discharge we are seeing stronger performance easier charging cycles and with an occasional overcharge the performance is fantastic. Water consumption is higher but even that has been largely mitigated with a slightly more gentle treatment.





 
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Michael Buck wrote:I am an off grid lifer, been here 17 years won't ever, willingly, choose to go back.  We electrified 11-12 years ago with 24v Trojan L-16HC.  I was quite careful with my maintenance and that bank lasted me nine years of daily cycling.  However, the last 6 months were dismal at best.  Anyway, I mention the history as it is my only defense against ignorance about batteries.  No science understanding, just seat of the pants daily charge and discharge.  

A couple years ago, when replacement was needed, we decide on Iron Nickel and on Iron Edison as the dealer.  I  cannot say enough positive things about Brandon and Maggie Williams (owners of Iron Edison).  Stellar individuals that really have there customers in mind and do ALL they can to help and ensure the product is understood and performing properly.  I do love my batteries and I think the payoff will come but, obviously, that is along time from now.  I have  a  neighbor with IN cells and we have fiddled and think we have found the sweet spot for DOD cycling parameters and it requires a more detailed description about what happens when you pass ~40-50% discharge.  We have noticed that the cells discharged below 50% all the way to 80% discharge behave in line with the literature.  That is, they will recharge and show no damage.  They will fully recharge, however, the amount of energy to recharge the the 50-80% portion of the deep discharge is much greater than the energy required to recharge 30% on the top 40-50%.  That is the only qualification I feel that the literature/information needs.  You can deep discharge without damage but it will cost you to smile at the e-meter again.



Since we have backed off to a 40% discharge we are seeing stronger performance easier charging cycles and with an occasional overcharge the performance is fantastic.  Water consumption is higher but even that has been largely mitigated with a slightly more gentle treatment.

Hey, do you know what would happen if you let the batteries run low on water?  Anyone?



 
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I think you would end up with carbon building up on the exposed plates and fouling your electrolyte.   You would loose considerable efficiency of that cell, but on the bright side all you have to do is drain the electrolyte, open up the cell and clean it off with a pressure washer, then reassemble and refill with fresh electrolyte.
 
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Dave Dahlsrud wrote:I think you would end up with carbon building up on the exposed plates and fouling your electrolyte.   You would loose considerable efficiency of that cell, but on the bright side all you have to do is drain the electrolyte, open up the cell and clean it off with a pressure washer, then reassemble and refill with fresh electrolyte.



Really... just where the F is carbon coming from?  Its filled with KOH, the plates are Nickle and Iron, the only other thing involved in the battery is electrons.  Where the hell is the carbon coming from to "Build up on your exposed plates"

the answer is that really NOTHING is going to happen to your metals in your FeNi battery when the plates are exposed except for the reduction of performance because the active chemical area has gone down because the plates are not fully submerged in the electrolytes... and YES.  I own NiFe batteries.   Also, I know the company, I know the battery technology very well.  Using numbers I got from Iron Edison I calculated that you are going to have to spend 12% of your captured solar energy to run a distiller to make distilled water to replace the lost water in the NiFe batteries.  You just can't put any water into the batteries, it MUST be distilled batteries.

Steve
 
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Carbon may come from CARBON DIOXIDE from the air. I perused a 'build for concept' set of instructions and after you get it built, filled, and run through a few cycles, they advocated putting a tiny amount of mineral oil on top of the distilled water in the cell, to act as a barrier to the carbon dioxide in the air reacting with the plates...

I met a set of real Edison batteries in the early 90's at a Tesla museum in Colorado Springs. The fellow that managed the museum had found someone in his neighborhood throwing them out. He had them cleaned up and working. (they were in the technology tour, they had various things in there including a working Jacob's Ladder, and at the end, a 4' tesla coil they'd fire. Totally cool tour)
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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That's right Deb the carbon comes from the atmosphere.  Got a set of NiFe batteries myself, reconditioned Edison cells from Zapworks in Montana.  The documentation that came with them along with Edison's original writings call for a layer of mineral oil on top of the electrolyte to seal out atmospheric contamination that can lead to carbon fouling of the electrolyte and plates thus reducing the efficiency of the battery bank until the fouling is corrected.  My understanding is the KOH has a chemical reaction with the CO2 in the atmosphere that causes the problem.
 
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  Just some notes from an old fart who has been researching this tech for a while .

I have read through all of the comments in this thread ,,, and here are my thoughts .

1. Edison was meticulous when developing his inventions . The Ni/Fe batt was one of his
   best .  He , and his help , found all the things that work , and a big bunch that didn't .
   If you take the time to review his patents ,  you will see what I mean .  All we have to do
   is replicate what he did , after we figure out why he did it .

2.  example (a) ,  the shell and the frames ,and the mesh tubes of the Ni/Fe batt were all
    nickel plated .  Not because they were the electrode , but because it prevented the
    electrolyte from chewing on the steel , chemically . The nickel electrode was actually the
    nickel hydroxide , mixed with nickel flake , that was stuffed in the mesh tubes of the
    nickel plate side of a given cell . The  nickel plate also acted as the conductor to those
    chemicals .

3.  example (b) ,  the same idea holds for the Fe plate of the cell .  The nickel plated framing
    holds the chemicals mechanically , and makes electrical connection . Neither plate of any
    given cell was made of solid , pure metal .  

4.  There are numerous sources of electrolyte chemicals . It could be technical grade , doesnt
    need to be reagent grade .  It doesnt need to be expensive .

5.  The lithium hydroxide used in the electrolyte ,  has the roll of a stabilizer , not the primary
    or as an alternate electrolyte .

6.  The rest of the discovered character of the Ni/Fe batt still apply . However the DIY batt
    builder can tweek variables like plate area to compensate for negative traits , thus
    making it more compatible with DIY solar / wind / microhydro  etc.  Tupperware might work
    just as good as five gal buckets . etc.

7.  Absolutely NO SUBSTITUTE for a little bit of CHEMISTRY 101 .....especially for the SAFETY
    aspects .

   My hat is off to all of you who are willing to jump in there and try new things !!!
 
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I tried researching this a bit and here's some technical theory I found so far...  There's a lot of info online if you look around.  

Don't use the anhydrous nickel oxide for a nickel-iron battery.  Make sure you use the hydrate form of the oxides (usually produced in an aqueous solution), or the “hydroxide” form.  (e.g. http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Nickel-Iron_Battery#Anode_Compound)

Anyway, these electrode materials are insoluble, which gives the batteries a high cycle-life, but tends to limit the power output to around 3C or 4C.  
If you need high power density consider using a different battery chemistry.

One way to reduce outgassing of hydrogen during charging, that is reportedly effective in other battery chemistries, is to use a small amount (mM) of indium chloride.  Google it.

You can also experiment with variations on Ni-Fe.  I wonder if the surface-area could be increased by first plating the Ni/Fe onto activated-carbon before converting it to hydroxide?  (One might not need any nickel at all this way)

By the way, nickel seems to be used on the positive-terminal for it's corrosion resistance.  In theory it might be possible to use the same chemistry but substitute iron and make an iron-iron battery, since each electrode uses a different pair of oxidation states. (This chemistry has been used with the soluble chloride-cation in an all-iron flow-battery, and is apparently successful, both technically and commercially).  Anyway, to get similar longevity would probably require the current-collector to not be made of rust-prone iron but rather something more corrosion-resistant like: carbon, graphite or magnetite (Fe3O4), or even stainless steel mesh, cupronickel, or nickel wire.  The advantage being that less nickel could be used, and it wouldn't be as much a part of the corrosive battery chemistry so it would be less expensive for materials and hopefully contain less toxic metal salts.  This topic interests me anyway.

Pure nickel metal is not always available, or at least not often at a wholesale price.  Some sources of nickel may contain copper or other metals.  As Edison did in manufacturing these, the processes for separating nickel from copper and other metals are also useful to precipitate “nickel flake” in a form with high surface to volume ratio, good for making electrodes.

...

Here are some ideas for separating cupronickel alloy into copper and nickel

I'm not sure of the best known process but I looked at some different methods ranging from Edison's process to Hybinette's process.  Edison's process looks good to me and I was inspired by that to find a similar process.  Both Edison's process and my idea to use iodine are similar in that the two metals are reacted with a common cation to make metal-salts where the salt of one metal is soluble and the salt of the other isn't.

Edison used some sort of ammonia-sulfate ion, I suppose “tetra-ammine-sulfate” [(NH3)4]SO4(2-).  I also wondered about using iodine as the “iodide” ion.  More on that later.


=====================================================
Making the reagents for Edison's process from scratch:
------------------------------------------------------  

Please skip this part if it's nauseating...  
Obtaining ammonia from urine:
Bottle urine in an air-tight container and age for a few days.
Work with the old smelly urine outdoors. Setup an apparatus to dissolve the evolved ammonia gas into cold water.  Optionally, heat or boil the old smelly urine in order to drive-off the ammonia by reducing its solubility with temperature and/or reducing the water volume of the urine with evaporation.
It may work better to evaporate urine when it is fresh before it turns to ammonia.

Ammonium carbonate is produced by combining carbon dioxide and aqueous ammonia.
CO2(aq) + 2 NH3(aq) + H2O → (NH4)2CO3

Ammonium sulfate is produced from gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) by adding finely-divided gypsum (aka “drywall”), (slightly soluble) to a solution of ammonium carbonate. Calcium carbonate precipitates, leaving ammonium sulfate in solution.
(NH4)2CO3(aq) + CaSO4(aq) → (NH4)2SO4(aq) + CaCO3(s)


Edison's process (or something close to it)
-------------------------------------------

Start with a 25% solution (or 285g/L) of ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4.
Add a (non-consumed) catalyst of 10-15 g/L of copper chloride, CuCl2.
Heat to near boiling temperature.  Bubble in air to provide O2.  
Nickel and Copper are separated by the following reaction:
Ni + 2 Cu + 2 (NH4)2SO4 + O2 + H2O → [Cu(NH3)4]SO4•H2O(ppt) + CuSO4?(aq) + Ni(ppt)

The Cu(NH3)4]SO4•H2O precipitates and is only slightly soluble at 18g/100ml , 20°C. + The CuSO4 presumably remains in solution.  The Nickel metal is insoluble and precipitates as flakes.

Separate the insoluble nickel from the soluble copper by filtration or similar means.  

Tetraamminecopper(II)-sulfate-hydrate can be thermally decomposed to produce copper sulfate, ammonia and water. This reaction takes place at a temperature of 280-300°C.
[Cu(NH3)4]SO4•H2O → CuSO4 + NH3 + H2O

Presumably the ammonia can be reused.

Or use sulfuric acid, H2SO4:
[Cu(NH3)4]SO4•H2O + H2SO4(aq) → CuSO4 + (NH4)2SO4 + H2O

sources:
http://edison.rutgers.edu/patents/01050630.pdf
http://edison.rutgers.edu/patents/01050629.pdf
wikipedia

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Here is a possible process for separating nickel and copper using iodine:

Heat 1.3L of distilled water to around 50°C (~120°F) or higher.
Dissolve ~1g of iodine.
(Elemental iodine is slightly soluble in water,
1g / 3450 ml H2O at 20 °C, and 1280 ml at 50 °C)

Immerse an anode of cupronickel alloy to be anodized (+ terminal), and an inert cathode, perhaps of cupronickel as well. Current should start flowing above 0.54 volts.

I− ⇌ 1⁄2 I2 + e−     redox potential : E° = −0.54 volts (versus SHE)

Will the iodine ionize sufficiently on its own?  
If not, one method for producing hydriodic acid (HI) is the reaction of iodine
with hydrogen sulfide:
H2S + I2 ----> 2 HI + S

Use in aqueous form or dissolve in water.  
Caution hydriodic acid (HI) is extremely corrosive.

(H2S gas can be obtained for example by polishing silver in a bath of salt, and washing soda (Na2CO3) or baking soda NaHCO3, and aluminum foil, where the silver is put in electrical contact with the Al foil.  An excellent, easy, low-cost way to polish silver in general.  This is one process I have tested.  Source: Youtube: Nurdrage, 2017)

Either way, Iodine ions (I-) should react with Ni and Cu to make NiI2 and copper iodide.

Ni(2+) + 2I− → NiI2
Cu(2+) + 2I− → CuI2

Overall:
Ni + I2 → NiI2
Cu + I2 → CuI2

The CuI2 immediately decomposes to iodine and insoluble copper(I) iodide,
releasing I2.

2 CuI2 → 2 CuI + I2

Dissolve more Iodine as needed to replace that which is taken up by the metal.

The (NiI2) should remain in solution
(solubility: 124 g/100 mL (0 °C) , 188 g/100 mL (100 °C) )
The (CuI) should precipitate (solubility: 0.0042 g/100 mL).

Separate by filtration.  

Add each of the metal salts to separate electrolysis baths.  
Plate out each of the metals.  Hopefully the iodine could also be recovered and reused.


Disclaimer: This comment is provided for information purposes only; use at your own risk.  Definitely study and research all experiments before trying them.  Use proper lab-safety procedures. Check your local laws.  
 
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Holy crap, that's a fair bit of research.  Now I remember why I took advanced physics instead of advanced chemistry

So...  Are you going to build one of these?
 
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Haha, well, I don't know Mike, I seem to be better at the theory than the practice, but it might not be too hard to stick two pieces of steel wool in Draino, and see if an iron battery works at all (if I ever tear myself away from the computer).  The quickest shortcut would probably be to just copy the recipe in a paper like this, for the Iron-Chloride cell. http://jes.ecsdl.org/content/163/1/A5118.full  "Indium Chloride" looks like a miracle additive.  It could reducing the outgassing of an Edison cell to the point where a sealed-cell might be possible.  
That chemistry is also used in a product made by "essinc.com".  

------------------------------------
And wouldn't you know it, I got to thinking, and this other thing already caught my attention!  At least for the moment...

"Direct carbon fuel cell" or "Molten hydroxide fuel cell" (similar to a "Molten carbonate fuel cell")

The following is a summary of this old patent:
http://www.google.com/patents/US555511

The melting point of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is 318 °C (604 °F; 591 K).  
(Using an electrolyte of potassium hydroxide (KOH) is also possible.)

In a vessel of pure iron (or low-carbon steel) containing molten sodium hydroxide heated to around 400 to 500 °C, immerse a piece of carbon (of any type that is electrically-conductive), and bubble pressurized air into the molten sodium hydroxide in order to fill it with oxygen and circulate the electrolyte.  The iron serves as the positive electrode, while the carbon forms the negative electrode.  The carbon is gradually converted into CO2 / carbonic acid, which mostly bubbles up through the electrolyte and escapes.

In the following side-reaction, a portion of the carbonic acid combines with a portion of the sodium hydroxide to form sodium carbonate
(2NaOH + CO2 --> Na2CO3 + H2), and this, together with any ash from the carbon fuel residue, slowly contaminates the electrolyte, and in the course of time lessens its efficiency. The efficiency may however be maintained by periodically refreshing the electrolyte.  The contaminated electrolyte may be purified by "simple well-known processes".

The contamination of the caustic soda by its union with carbonic acid may be reduced, and its life consequently prolonged, by adding a small percentage of magnesium oxide catalyst.  The inventor's conception of the magnesium oxide is that the free carbonic acid combines with it
(MgO + CO2 <---> MgCO3) in preference to the sodium hydroxide, and that the reaction is reversible so the resulting magnesium carbonate formed is quickly decomposed into carbonic acid, which escapes as CO2, making the magnesium oxide catalyst active again.  Thus the magnesium oxide serves as a carrier to convey the carbonic acid / CO2 through the electrolyte.  



 
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Brainstorming on the pond thing by non-chemist here, I read this until my brain was full.  If you hooked up a tube to my brain, maybe you could get a few watts out of it to power a DC LED, but then Paul would be upset because LED.  Can't win.

SO...getting back to the pond idea, is there any way to raise water with mechanical forces--I mean, rain being the main example but can you evaporate it in a low-tech way and condense it in a low-tech way up higher?  (actually was more interested in doing this for a fish pond pump, for aeration, but maybe it would also charge a pond battery.

Here's a stab at a design: make a short tube of glass, painted black on the back, that you assume will break frequently because it is not idiot-proof, but it is only about a foot long.  Aim mirrors at that, which will be a bit more idiot-proof.

Then the rest is a black tube that heats the bleep up, and keeps the water nice and steamy in full sun.   This whole doo-hicky is vertical, with the glass part down near the bottom.  The bottom sticks into your down-hill water, and slurps up like a straw; the top part goes over a little ^ shape thing and down to a cooler, shaded metal area where the steam is condensing and then flowing into the pond battery.

I guess mineral deposit is a problem.
-------

Also, though, reminds me of another idea, you could distill water more cheaply with an air well and then use that for the NiFe batteries and then you don't have to use electriicyt from the batteries to do this task, that's a really good point about having to use energy for distilling.

 
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