Lithium Sulfur Batteries Slated For Takeoff

tube mature alohaSpectrum recently published a post on a new lithium sulfur battery technology specifically targeting electric aviation applications. Although lots of electric vehicles could benefit from the new technology, airplanes are especially sensitive to heavy batteries and lithium-sulfur batteries can weigh much less than modern batteries of equivalent capacity. The Spectrum post is from Oxis Energy who is about to fly tests with the new batteries which they claim have twice the energy density of conventional lithium-ion batteries. The company also claims the batteries are safer, which is another important consideration when flying through the sky.

tube mature alohaThe batteries have a cathode comprised of aluminum foil coated with carbon and sulfur — which avoids the use of cobalt, a cost driver in traditional lithium cell chemistries. The anode is pure lithium foil. Between the two electrodes is a separator soaked in an electrolyte. The company says the batteries go through multiple stages as they discharge, forming different chemical compounds that continue to produce electricity through chemical action.

The safety factor is due to the fact that, unlike lithium-ion cells, the new batteries don’t form dendrites that short out the cell. The cells do degrade over time, but not in a way that is likely to cause a short circuit. However, ceramic coatings may provide protection against this degradation in the future which would be another benefit compared to traditional lithium batteries.

We see a lot of exciting battery announcements, but we rarely see real products with them. Time will tell if the Oxis and similar batteries based on this technology will take root.

A Beginner’s Guide To Lithium Rechargeable Batteries

Batteries were once heavy, awkward things, delivering only a limp amount of current for their size and weight. Thankfully, over time, technology has improved, and in 2020, we’re blessed with capable, high-power lithium polymer batteries that can provide all the power your mobile project could possibly need. There are some considerations one must make in their use however, so read on for a primer on how to properly use LiPos in your project!

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With the first commercial lithium-ion battery entering the market in 1991, the (nearly) 30 years since have seen rapid development. This has led to a proliferation of different technologies and types of battery, depending on construction and materials used. In order to treat your batteries properly, it’s important to know what you’ve got, so paying attention to this is critical. Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide To Lithium Rechargeable Batteries”

The 19th Century, When Gravity Battery Meant Something Different

The internet is full of dubious content promoting “free energy” devices and other ideas that stretch credibility, so [Robert Murray-Smith] prefaces his demonstration of a gravity battery with a warning to look elsewhere if you are in search of such things. Instead he’s showing us a pair of cells from?The Model Engineer and Amateur Electrician, a printed periodical that sounds to us something like an equivalent of Hackaday from the 1890s. (Video embedded below.)

The cells are termed gravity batteries because their constituents settle out into layers not unlike a tequila sunrise under the influence of gravity, something that made them especially suitable for the home constructor in the late 19th century when there were no handy wall outlets from which to snag a bit of power.

The chemistry of each is not unexpected if you spent any time in your high school’s lab, a zinc-copper primary cell with a zinc sulphate/copper sulphate electrolyte and a secondary zinc-carbon cell with a zinc bromide electrolyte and a layer of bromine forming on charging. The construction in large glass vessels is archaic though, and it’s this that’s prompted his video. He poses the question whether this type of cell might be revived using 21st century techniques to produce something of use today. The video is below the break, and even if you are not about to try your hand at electrochemistry it’s an interesting watch.

Thanks [Blaub?r] for the tip! Continue reading “The 19th Century, When Gravity Battery Meant Something Different”

A CR2032 Battery Eliminator

Back when batteries were expensive and low-capacity, it was common to buy a “battery eliminator” that could substitute for common battery configurations. [David Watts] must remember those, because he decided to make an eliminator for all the CR2032 battery-driven gear he has. He got some brass blanks about the size of the battery, and you can see the results on the video below.

His first attempt seemed to work fairly well, a sandwich of two brass disks, each with a Velcro spacer and wires soldered on to connect to a power supply. The fake battery looks as though it might be a little thick, but it did work once the battery holder was persuaded to accept it.

Continue reading “A CR2032 Battery Eliminator”

Microbatteries On The Grid

Not everybody has $6500 to toss into a Tesla Powerwall (and that’s a low estimate), but if you want the benefits of battery storage for your house, [Matt]’s modular “microbattery” storage system might be right up your alley. With a build-as-you-go model, virtually any battery can be placed on the grid in order to start storing power from a small solar installation or other power source.

The system works how any other battery installation would work. When demand is high, a series of microinverters turn on and deliver power to the grid. When demand is low, the batteries get charged. The major difference between this setup and a consumer-grade system is that this system is highly modular and each module is networked together to improve the efficiency of the overall system. Its all tied together with a Raspberry Pi that manages the entire setup.

While all of the software is available to set this up, it should go without saying that working with mains power is dangerous, besides the fact that you’ll need inverters capable of matching phase angle with the grid, a meter that handles reverse power flow, a power company that is willing to take the power, and a number of building code statutes to appease. If you don’t have all that together, you might want to go off-grid instead.

Solar Panel Keeps Car Battery Topped Off Through OBD-II Port

Up until the 1980s or so, a mechanic could check for shorts in a car’s electrical system by looking for sparks while removing the battery terminal with everything turned off in the car. That stopped being possible when cars started getting always-on devices, and as [Kerry Wong] learned, these phantom loads can leave one stranded with a dead battery at the airport after returning from a long trip.

[Kerry]’s solution is simple: a solar trickle charger. Such devices are readily available commercially, of course, and generally consist of a small photovoltaic array that sits on the dashboard and a plug for the lighter socket. But as [Kerry] points out in the video below, most newer model cars no longer have lighter sockets that are wired to work without the ignition being on. So he chose to connect his solar panel directly to the OBD-II port, the spec for which calls for an always-on, fused circuit connected directly to the positive terminal of the vehicle battery. He had to hack together an adapter for the panel’s lighter plug, the insides of which are more than a little scary, and for good measure, he added a Schottky diode to prevent battery discharge through the panel. Even the weak winter sun provides 150 mA or so of trickle charge, and [Kerry] can rest assured his ride will be ready at the end of his trip.

We used to seeing [Kerry] tear down test gear and analyze unusual devices, along with the odd post mortem on nearly catastrophic failures. We’re glad nothing burst into flames with this one.

Continue reading “Solar Panel Keeps Car Battery Topped Off Through OBD-II Port”

Lighting Up A Tiny Train Needs Tiny Tools

A tiny toy train that [voidnill] illuminated with a small LED strip fragment demonstrates several challenges that come with both modifying existing products, and working with small things in general. One is that it is hard in general to work around existing design choices and materials when modifying something. The second is that problems are magnified with everything is so small.

[voidnill]’s plentiful photos illustrate everything from drilling out small rivets and tapping the holes for screws to installing a tiny switch, LED strip, and button cells as a power supply. When things are so small, some of the usual solutions don’t apply. For example, cyanoacrylate glue may seem like a good idea for mounting small plastic parts, but CA glue easily wicks into components like the tiny power switch and gums up the insides, rendering it useless.

[voidnill] uses lots of careful cutting and patience to get everything done, and demonstrates the importance of quality tools. The LED strip fragment is driven by three small button cells, and while tape does a serviceable job as a battery holder, [voidnill] believes a 3D printed custom frame for the cells would really do the trick.

The kind of work that goes into making or modifying small things really puts into perspective the amount of effort behind projects like this coffee table with an N-gauge model railway inside it.