I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Edison Cell battery  RSS feed

 
Nicholas Covey
Posts: 180
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ok, so I don't recall seeing anything on it here so let's give this a shot. Many of us know that the battery bank is often times the most expensive and most vulnerable part of an off-grid electrical system.

The Edison Cell battery, also known as the Nickel Iron, or NIFE battery. They are bulky, have a higher self-discharge rate than lead acid batteries, and tend to take charge slowly.

Now the plus sides. They last practically forever. The electrolyte is primarily distilled water, potash, and maybe lithium (depends on who you talk to). This rather benign mixture doesn't degrade the cells like sulfuric acid tend to do, making physical damage almost impossible as long as the cells still contain electrolyte. They can be fully discharged without damage, can be overcharged without damage, and really take more of a beating than the typical lead-acid banks we normally see in the off-grid applications.

There is (as far as I can tell) one manufacturer of them left in the world and it's in China. A supplier here in the states is www.beutilityfree.com
and they order from the China supplier twice yearly. They are beyond expensive though possibly due to markup and limited availability. This is where I have the biggest issue: cost.

So in the spirit of being a little different thinking, what would it take to make your own?

like any battery it takes two electrodes. One is made of iron. Mild steel will work apparently. Another needs to be nickel, but nickel plated will work as well.

Now lets say we have some mosquito screen or something similar and have it electroplated with nickel. Find a counterpart in iron (usually galvanized so it will need to be dipped in an acid bath or something similar to remove the galvanizing coating).

The most efficient use of space is likely a coil of these two together with an insulator between them (I was thinking of the plastic rug grid that is often used for yarn art projects and available at fabric stores) then roll them together into as tight of a package as possible, place into a vertical PVC pipe with capped bottom. Make connections at the top to the proper poles, make allowances for out-gassing and refilling of electrolyte and viola! a single cell (you will need ten for a twelve volt system).

It sounds feasible, but like anything else worth doing it may take some real work to round up the parts. I have also oversimplified the construction so as not to put you all to sleep.

Thoughts? Discussions?
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicholas Covey wrote:
The Edison Cell battery, also known as the Nickel Iron, or NIFE battery. They are bulky, have a higher self-discharge rate than lead acid batteries, and tend to take charge slowly.

Now the plus sides. They last practically forever. The electrolyte is primarily distilled water, potash, and maybe lithium (depends on who you talk to). This rather benign mixture doesn't degrade the cells like sulfuric acid tend to do, making physical damage almost impossible as long as the cells still contain electrolyte. They can be fully discharged without damage, can be overcharged without damage, and really take more of a beating than the typical lead-acid banks we normally see in the off-grid applications.


My first thought was... "solar power costs a lot.... I want a battery that gives me back the most of what I put in there." so when I read "higher self-discharge" I was "no thanks". This is very important where there may be several sunless days. However.... on further thought, it seems to me the best comparison would be to take the performance of lead acid averaged over 10 years. the self-discharge rate of 7 year old LAs might be even worse... anybody have a chart?

Nicholas Covey wrote:
So in the spirit of being a little different thinking, what would it take to make your own?


OK. I have old batteries now... I'm game.


The most efficient use of space is likely a coil of these two together with an insulator between them (I was thinking of the plastic rug grid that is often used for yarn art projects and available at fabric stores) then roll them together into as tight of a package as possible, place into a vertical PVC pipe with capped bottom.

Is the potash solution high PH? would that eat the PVC? Seems to me the old ones were glass cases. PVC would be nice if it works.

This would be R&... have to expect some failures. Lets start small. A small battery can teach me as much as a large one. Something that can keep a nightlite going all night might be a good start. I have a 12v 3x12inch panel I can charge with.
 
Neal McSpadden
Posts: 269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Edison batteries are one of those topics that pop on alternative energy boards from time to time. Everyone seems to agree that they make a lot of sense for stationary applications, but everyone runs into the same issues with respect to availability.

I'd love to see someone make a go of it!

tamo42
http://www.theprimalprepper.com
http://www.livebusinesschat.com
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
tamo42 wrote:
Edison batteries are one of those topics that pop on alternative energy boards from time to time. Everyone seems to agree that they make a lot of sense for stationary applications, but everyone runs into the same issues with respect to availability.


yeah, thats what I saw when I went looking. Lots of "we got voltage"... but not much in the AH part. it seems that nickel doesn't lend itself to sponging like lead. Surface area is harder and costlier to get.
 
                              
Posts: 23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Len wrote: it seems that nickel doesn't lend itself to sponging like lead. Surface area is harder and costlier to get.


If you are trying to maximize surface area, couldn't you electroplate steel wool?
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
PeakEverything wrote:
If you are trying to maximize surface area, couldn't you electroplate steel wool?


Screen might be better... steel wool has a problem in that all the fibres are not guaranteed to be electrically connected. Even if they are, they need to be sized such that they can handle any amount of current that might pass through them. This amount is hard to determine as any one fibre might be the sole path for many fibres.

The projects on the web seem to be headed towards screen with paste on it. Nickel seems to cost a lot more than lead. This may be part of the reason for so many lead acid batteries.
 
Joe Baker
Posts: 25
Location: Portland OR
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well i don't know about making my own Edison type battery cells. But i can give my 2 Cents input from direct experience with them.

First wen i do get my own place there the only type of battery I'm going to consider based on the 11 years of experience i have with Edison, Exide and Alkid brand cells. This type of battery is the most common in use in railroad signal systems of any out there. And i have been volunteering with small tourist railroads since 2000 and helping to maintain the crossing signals has been a regular task that i undertake. And care of the battery system is a every visit part of signal maintaining.

So In my experience with these things starting with the bad points. The first is cost, They just are the most expensive large storage battery out there. The other is size and weight. compared to lead acid i would say there about 2.5 times bigger for the same amount of power stored. They also use more water then lead acid batteries however there are ways to overcome that.

Now the positive points. There the most durable battery you will ever see. As far as i know the Edison electric storage battery company was bought out by Exide some time in the 70s and Exide them self quit making them in around the 60s as far as i know. And the other company Alkid we never had any of there cells in service but we had a 9 volt set of them in storage and last i played around with them they did load test just fine. Now wen you consider they were the oldest battery cells i have ever seen. made with solid nickle jars and ceramic insulators and had the cells housed in a wooden crate. I mean stop and think about wen was the last time batteries were made that way? 100 or more years ago maybe? In all this time i have only seen 1 cell go bad and that was a 80AH Exide.

So yea i would love to see any lead acid battery last like that.

The other point is that the levels of self discharge that some people talk about are over stated. I have seen a 120AH set of Edisons sit under a heating oil tank for 8 years and still were at over 1.3 volts on each cell. But i have to admit they were more then willing to take some charge after that. By the way i have never seen a lead acid battery sit that long and still be happy to go back to work. Have you?

As for watering my experience is some are more thirsty then others. The original Edisons didn't use that much water. However Edison also had something they call battery oil that was pored in on top of the electrolyte. And it looks just like oil to tell the truth. I have no idea what it was but the cells that have it often go years without needing water. And you can see it floating on top of the water in the cells. And it has the same color as veggie oil. But that's all the more i know about it other then you can't get it any longer. Today i would consider a automatic watering system or catalytic caps. They both seem to do the job. And are a help with the Exide cells. The 80AH 10V set we have in service goes threw about 1 quart of water every month.

Other short points. We don't run any kind of voltage regulation on the charging system. I forget why this is but i think it's to eliminate the need to equalize the battery. But there also charged slow. 100mA to 150mA is typical. Not that they can't take larger amounts of current. We just charge them slow in that application. They also tend to stay cleaner then lead acid. And are easier to clean the gunk off the terminals as well.

That's all the more i can think of right now. But like i said, wen i get my own place i will be ordering as many NiFe battery cells from Beutilityfree as i can afford. While i don't know what kind of track record the company making them has. I do know that the type of battery has a solid track record and there worth every penny of the asking price IMHO  
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
bakerjoe wrote:
Other short points. We don't run any kind of voltage regulation on the charging system. I forget why this is but i think it's to eliminate the need to equalize the battery. But there also charged slow. 100mA to 150mA is typical.


Those two things go together. No regulation and slow charge. These cells will take over charge just fine (but as you said you add more water) but they will not take too high of rate of charge. The highest rate of charge has to be regulated with one of the inputs being cell temperature to prevent thermal runaway.

For a backup application or application with short high current use and long charge time... the simplicity of low current no regulation charging makes a lot of sense.

For most off grid use... making the best use of solar input while it is there.... regulating is a must. Over sizing the whole system might work just as well, as these cells don't seem to mind undercharging either, but I think a regulator might be a whole lot cheaper than doubling solar panels and number of cells

Having said that, some of the various "doomsday" theories around would see most electronics (like regulators) destroyed (and unreplaceable). In such a case oversizing things might be the best way to go... incandescent lights might make a real come back... in fact they might be the light you can make at home.
 
Joe Baker
Posts: 25
Location: Portland OR
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Len i have to agree with using a charge controller with NiFe cells in a solar or wind off grid system. If for no other reason then to reduce the amount of distilled water you have to come up with. But a charge controller would allow a higher overall charge rate. I would size my charging system to never go over a C rate of .2 and that's still really cramming the amps in fast for NiFe. Lead acid for example i have charged as fast as .5 C with no ill effects. And likewise i would limit load on the cells to no more then .5 C for anything more then i few min. I also would try and avoid running them below 50% charge and do my level best to bring them back to a full charge once a week. But that's just what i would do. NiFe cells are good work horses but a over worked horse wont live long. 

As far as something like thermal runaway i have never herd of it happening with NiFe cells. As far as i know they actually like to run on the warm side. So long as you don't get them literally boiling hot they should be fine. On the other end of that they don't like being cold and tend to charge/discharge slow in sub freezing temps. But I'm told that there not prone to freeze damage like a lead acid cell. I know my relatives have had there lead acid cells freeze and crack in there off grid system. You can imagine what that does to a plywood shed floor wen a few gallons of battery acid soaks into that stuff....

Oh one other good thing i can think of about lead acid cells is that you can check the true state of charge with a hydrometer. Where as with NiFe the SG of the electrolyte doesn't reflect state of charge. But you can just check each cells individual voltage to determine if a equalizing charge is needed.
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
bakerjoe wrote:
As far as something like thermal runaway i have never herd of it happening with NiFe cells. As far as i know they actually like to run on the warm side. So long as you don't get them literally boiling hot they should be fine.


I picked up the thermal runaway thing from the Nickel–iron battery wiki page:

[quote author=Nickel–iron battery wiki page]
Nickel–iron cells should not be charged from a constant voltage supply since they can be damaged by thermal runaway; the cell internal voltage drops as gassing begins, raising temperature, which increases current drawn and so further increases gassing and temperature.
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2405
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
63
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Len wrote:Is the potash solution high PH? would that eat the PVC? Seems to me the old ones were glass cases. PVC would be nice if it works.
.
I think PVC would work. My father used to make machines out of PVC which were bathing in iron perchloride. One thing thought. This is industrial PVC, not suage pvc. The difference is, the suage pvc is charged with a lot of plaster. To make it cheaper. Industrial stuff is of a far darker grey. Shiny surface. Welds well.
 
Joe Baker
Posts: 25
Location: Portland OR
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well Len you kept me up a shade past wen i wanted to go to bed.. But its the weekend anyway 

I did look up the wiki article and they do say they can go into thermal runaway. But i was not able to find there source for that information. In any case i did look at the Edison manual for NiFe cells and there was another link on the wiki to a modern manufacture. Both basically say to charge them constant current with a voltage cut off around 1.4V at .2 to .1 C.

In any case since a PV panel is a constant current device i don't think thermal runaway is going to be a problem for most. But apparently if your charging them from something that doesn't have a set in stone upper current limit like for example a wind turbine, then a charge controller would be critical to keeping a Nife battery bank in good heath.

 
Joe Baker
Posts: 25
Location: Portland OR
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey i found something new that the original poster may think is interesting.

I was playing around on YouTube and found among other interesting videos of people playing around with Edison cells a video of someone making one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K84PywMwjZg

Oh also i found this neat little project...

http://rimstar.org/renewnrg/sp_diy_homemade_solar_cell.htm


All of that sounds like a fun project to me. Think about it... You would have enough power to run a led light just long enough to find your candles and a book a matches! Think of how impressed your girlfriend would be 
 
Le Sellers
Posts: 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There are other sources besides beutilityfree. I am working with a place here in Colorado called IronEdison. Try them are http://www.ironedison.com
.

They don't import in batch, but order everything custom on demand. I'll be visiting them in two weeks and will post what I find.

There is also a website for enthusiasts at http://www.iron-nickel-battery.com by Ian Soutal who's done a lot of research on the history and modern usage of NiFe batteries.

A magician with a couple of curious hobbies has a site that discusses NiFe batteries. Look here: http://www.noonco.com/edison
 
Well don't expect me to do the dishes! This ad has been cleaned for your convenience:
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!