[MCN] Wow! Low-cost, do-it-yourself solar storage battery

Lance Olsen lance at wildrockies.org
Wed Nov 2 10:46:16 EDT 2016

Shoring up the power grid -- with DIY scrap-metal batteries

With residential solar energy ramping up, consumers are looking for 
ways to store extra energy without breaking the bank. To help solve 
this problem, a team of scientists has come up with a novel 
possibility: do-it-yourself, scrap-metal batteries. They report their 
method in the journal ACS Energy Letters 

One of the most obvious choices these days for back-up energy storage 
is the lithium-ion battery. This option, however, requires a complex, 
global supply chain and high-end manufacturing facilities. But making 
batteries hasn't always been so hi-tech. The world's first speculated 
batteries originated during the first century B.C. with a terracotta 
pot, a copper sheet and an iron rod, according to Cary L. Pint and 
colleagues. Going back to this simple predecessor known as the 
"Baghdad battery," the scientists decided to pursue a similarly basic 
device using scrap steel and brass, which respectively make up the 
most and the third-most abundant kinds of scrap metal waste in the 

Pint and his team developed a simple process that could be carried 
out at home to prepare steel and brass scraps of varying sizes and 
shapes, including shavings and screws, to turn them into effective 
electrodes for batteries. When the electrodes were combined with 
aqueous potassium hydroxide as the electrolyte, they yielded a 
battery with a voltage of up to 1.8 volts and an energy density up to 
20 watt hours per kilogram, which approaches that of traditional 
lead-acid and nickel-iron batteries.

Testing showed the steel-brass batteries could charge and discharge 
more than 5,000 times. Because such devices are made of common scrap 
metal, they would be inexpensive and could help shift some of the 
energy storage burden from a centralized model to a localized one, 
the researchers say.
The authors acknowledge funding from NASA, the National Science 
Foundation and Vanderbilt University.
The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

"The first commandment of economics is: Grow. Grow forever. Companies 
get bigger. National economies need to swell by a certain percent 
each year. People should want more, make more, earn more, spend more 
-- ever more."

Donella Meadows. Just So Much And No More. Yes magazine June 30, 2001

"If enterprises are to grow, they must increase the scale of their 
production.  Since production is useless without a market, the market 
must grow if production expands. There are many ways one can expand 
markets: the most efficient is to increase the buying power of the 
mass of the population."

Mead, Walter Russell.  Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in 
Transition. 381 pages. Houghton Mifflin. 1987.

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