Lead Acid Battery Restoration CASE 1 & 2

POWER STORAGE Units (PSU’s) Lead Acid Battery Restoration CASE 1 & 2

NOTE:

When dismantling any battery, there is a level of toxicity and exposure to acid. NEVER open up a battery and remove the electrolyte. There are many types of flooded batteries that use toxic metals. SurvivorDuty will only demonstrate the less harmful simple flooded lead acid and nickel iron batteries. This website is dedicated to inform the reader concerning reconditioning in a time of crises but the reader should NEVER attempt what is demonstrated here for batteries are cheap and available to replace as new then to dismantle an aged battery that will offer no benefit.

Chapter 2: Lead Acid Battery Restoration CASE 1 & 2

For SurvivorDuty, of all the power containment devices out there, the best is the industrial ultra capacitors, my favorite. Even aged, these capacitors can maintain their capacitance yet the downside is that they have very little power density. The second storage device is the original Edison Nickel Iron battery. Only the original Edison battery constructed of heavy metal containers that are electroplated with nickel and utilized durable rubber that withstood a century or more in an alkaline solution. The Edison’s electrolyte can be re-created from simple wood ash that fall outside of the supply chain. Again, similar to the ultra capacitor, the Edison’s have a low power density, expensive, and hard to find even as old as they are. The new NiFe batteries are manufactured as a “consumable” like their brethren the lead acid battery, (designed to fail). But unfortunately, the typical home market lead acid battery will be the SurvivorDuty’s only choice for they are cheap, have a high power to weight ratio, and they will be abundant, found in old automobiles and warehouses everywhere. There are industrial versions of the lead acid battery that have a duty life of over 10 years, but again, they are expensive, unserviceable and will be hard to find. To make a lead acid battery last over a 100 years, like an Edison battery, we will have to manually reconstruct the lead and the acid ourselves continually.

Before we cover the initial step of a traditional lead acid battery recovery, a brief history and discovery must be addressed and understood:

  1. Not all flooded lead acid batteries active pastes are of the same materials. Some pastes consist of the toxic metals such as cadmium.
  2. Not all lead acid batteries use liquid sulfuric acid as a electrolyte. Some electrolyte are gelled or mixed this other caustic solutions.
  3. The lead construction in most lead acid batteries are made of lead-antimony containing calcium, selenium or other alloys, not consisting of pure lead.
  4. The use of electrolyte “rejuvenating additives” on the market to dissolve lead sulfate crystals are a temporary fix but will alter the electrolyte composition and erode lead. It is critical to maintain the original pure solution for electrolysis consisting of diluted sulfuric acid. H2SO4 must NOT have a contaminant to lead (Pb) to create PbSO4 in the reaction if you need a battery to last.
  5. Microprocessor Pulse oscillators, to remove lead sulfate crystals, are supply chain electronics with microprocessors that have a limited duty life and open to EMP degradation. Most professionals note that this pulse technology simply does not work.
  6. Lead sulfate crystals coat the active cells that reduces battery life by reducing conductivity but lead sulfate itself is key to function of a healthy lead acid battery. The lead sulfate crystals consume sulfuric acid yet the crystals can be dissolved back to lead sulfate. NEVER throw away a “sulfated” battery or it’s electrolyte in a survival situation. The sulfuric acid can be recovered and the lead re-conditioned. Lead sulfate crystals form naturally if not all the lead sulfate is converted back to lead dioxide during charging. This is why batteries “age” do to a natural progression of electrolysis over time. Undercharging or left idle for a long periods of time will naturally grow lead sulfate crystals.
  7. Read “BATTERIES POWER STORAGE UNITS (PSU) CHAPTER 1 THE EDISON” that notes that the failure of most lead acid batteries is not due to just sulfating crystals, but also due to inexpensive plastic cases, poorly constructed lead plates or the painted on active pastes that simply flake off and short out the cell. The first batteries produced by Gaston Planté used electrolysis to form lead dioxide naturally on the surface of pure lead foil. These batteries may not had the power density of today’s cells, yet they were very durable and long lasting. SurvivalDuty will feature a reconstruction of this battery in the near future.
  8. Edison Nickel – Cadmium batteries, Ni-Cad, (in KOH). Cadmium in very toxic and banned by the EPA. Do NOT recondition these batteries in a survival situation. Do not attempt to recover any modern battery including lithium Ion batteries.
  9. DO NOT relay on specific gravity of an aged battery to the state of charge. As a battery builds up lead sulfated crystals, the less the concentration of sulfuric acid exists in the electrolyte solution. If we recondition a battery outside a manufactured specs, the specific gravity will be unique to that reconstruction. We will go into this in a later post.
  10.  Lead is not toxic in a sold form.

 CASE ONE NOTES:

Breaking in a battery requires Full charge and Full discharge consisting of several cycles. To discharge fully, turn on a load  that is approximately 5% of the Amp-hour rating of the batteries. That is, for a 100 Amp-hour battery discharge at about 5 Amps. Continue the discharge until the battery voltage falls to 10.5 Volts. In this demonstration, I reconditioned a 12 volt deep cycle dead battery, (zero volts), at a recovered voltage of 8 volts for the first cycle. I used one solar panel rated at 100 watts with NO charge controller. I want to over charge the battery. Also, a survivalist should not relay in any type of microprocessor. During peak solar attitude (Winter), the panel pumped out 5 amps at a 11 volt load, 20 volts open circuit, for about 3 hours. I demonstrated only one cycle so to focus on CASE TWO. Arraying additional 100 watt panels in parallel would have increased the amp load but I had to watch the electrolyte’s boiling, (gassing), rate so I used only one. At the start, the panel could only push 1 volt into the battery. In about 30 minutes, the amps increased to 5 and the electrolyte began to boil.

CASE ONE: Breaking in a sulfated battery by overcharging.

Breaking in a “0” volt battery at 5 amps, 11 volts, (20 volts open circuit), generated 8 volts. I used a 5 amp discharge to a discharge voltage of 6 volts, then started a new cycle. Monitor the gassing and water level. Do not overfill a discharged battery for a charging battery will add sulfuric acid to the electrolyte as it charges. If this battery has NO internal damage to the plates or the insulated dividers, then the lead sulfate crystals should began to dissolve back to lead sulfate. Continue this cycling for several weeks. If this method fail to condition the battery to hold at least 12.5 volts, move to CASE TWO.

Figure 1. Simple solar charging.

 

Figure 2. Using a diode to control reverse current flow back to panel.

 

Figure 3. Constant monitoring of electrolyte boil and water level.

 

CASE TWO: Reconditioning the electrolyte to dissolve lead sulfate crystals.

After several cycles using CASE ONE and if the battery did not rebound to 12.5 volts, drain the electrolyte from each cell separately. Care must be taken to avoid burns to eyes or skin. NOTE: Every drop is needed for the reconditioning, (Mason Jars are great for this but never re-use for food). Refill cells with distilled water and repeat the process as provided in CASE ONE. After several cycles, monitor water density. If the density increases, drain and save this electrolyte and fill the cells back up with distilled water, (lead sulfate crystals will dissolve faster in a diluted water solution). What we are doing is dissolving the hard sulfate crystals thus producing sulfuric acid when discharged. All the electrolyte recovered will be boiled down to sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid dose not evaporate. After many cycles, and there is very little increase in specific gravity, stop the cycle. Using a double boiler, (mason jars in a metal pot with water for acid will decay metal), boil off the water then combine all Mason glass jars into one ceramic container. If necessary, add distilled water back until the specific gravity is around 1.120. Add this electrolyte to the empty cells and re-charge. If the battery does not recover to at least 12.5 volts, then move to CASE THREE. NOTE: If we cannot attain the 1.120 specific gravity by using CASE ONE, we would have to sacrifice another old batter’s electrolyte.

Figure 4. For this battery case design, just cut one vent cap by a third to cycle draining each cell individually into glass Mason jars. All precautions must be taken with handling and storing sulfuric acid.

 

Figure 5. Let jars sit so the electrolyte solution can separate from impurities from the old battery case and paste.

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