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Message Subject Last minute tips for parents when the SHTF
Poster Handle EMPerror
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I have an electronics background and experience. What would you recommend to people who probably are not storing up adequate supplies? I think preparedness folks are storing up supplies to cope for a set period.

At some point batteries that can hold their charge well and have long life are probably the key. I'm thinking nickel iron batteries using lye made from wood ashes. The main issue I see is finding a source of nickel that isn't an alloy. There's lots of scrap iron.

Nickel is not commonly mined in the USA. See this map:
[link to en.wikipedia.org]
It is was commericially mined in Riddle, Oregon and there are plans to mine in it Michigan. I see it as a very important future resource.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1110734

Nickel is used as a coating. Problem may be finding out how to distinguish nickel and chrome coating. That may be hard for anyone without experience. Nickel is more soft and has slightly different color. Layer usually is thin, but it may work for some time. Old NiMH, NiCd batteries may be a source for nickel. It needs some chemistry to get it to a suitable form. "Upon heating above 400°C, nickel powder reacts with oxygen to give NiO."
[link to en.wikipedia.org]
Ni coating salvaging may be not an effective way, but it may provide small amounts of this material. Old Ni battery reprocessing may be a faster way, but should have to look into chemistry and whether it is possible to do with basic equipment.

Chemical safety. First of all skin or any other contact with chemicals should be avoided. Alkaline solutions or acids can give really nasty burns, damage skin in a way that may not be spotted until it's too late. Skin is porous and chemicals that get on it usually stay there. Even with chemicals that do not have effects on skin, caution is advised as these chemicals can spread from skin through touch to eyes, possibly food.

From old books:

There are several ways to make batteries from salvaged old ones.

Carbon and depolarizator manganese oxide salvaging.
Carbon can be easily removed from old battery, while separation of manganese oxide may be problematic. If it is formed solid, then there is no problem as moist paste can be removed. Powdered internals may take some more work to salvage.
[link to en.wikipedia.org]
Manganese oxide must be washed or left in a rain water (it is close to distilled water and easily available) for a few days then carefully dried. It is needed to wash away old electrolyte.

Zinc is available from salvaged container of battery. Caution, it is usually treated with mercury unless it is mercury free (something that should be known). This way of salvaging is discussed only for emergency. Contact must be made, and round tube formed so that liquid electrolyte would not have any restrictions. Bottom removal or holes may do fine. It will be used until will become completely corroded or dissolved.

Any glass jar or plastic bottle can be used.
Carbon electrode is placed in the middle of zinc tube (without touching it) with depolarizator (if it is solid). If it is powdered, then it must be refilled again. Some of depolarizator height is recommended to be above liquid electrolyte.

Electrolyte is recommended ammonium chloride 150g for 1l of water. This battery is standard 1.5V. If ammonium chloride is not available book tells that salt and water can work, but it will be much less effective.
Other electrolytes can be produced using what is available. My guess would be ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) + salt and water. Maybe there is more info on it?

Zinc-Copper gravity cell
[link to en.wikipedia.org]

It is stationary battery and cannot be moved or stirred. Container must be 1l and high enough. It is done by making zinc contact near the top of container. Dielectric glass or plastic tube or insulated wire is needed through which copper wire is connected to the bottom, so that lots of copper wire or any other copper object lies on the bottom of container (copper will increase). Tube or insulation prevents current flow at the top layer. Current goes between bottom copper - top zinc. It is filled with water. 2-3g of zinc sulfate is mixed in. Zinc sulfate level will increase as zinc is dissolved. Then 20-30g of copper sulfate are carefully dropped from top. It partly dissolves or can be mixed a bit only on the bottom making blue color. This color must not reach top where is zinc. It dissolves zinc by covering it with copper. It will make battery less effective. If blue color reaches top, battery must be shorted and color goes down. With time power may increase. When crystals appear on Zinc, some electrolyte must be removed and replaced by water. Removed water can be used to make another battery as it has zinc sulfate. When working blue color disappears as copper sulfate is used up and must be added again.
It gives 0.8-0.9V. 1l jar can produce 100mA.
Battery must work constantly so that top and bottom layers would not mix. If not used, Zinc can be removed from electrolyte.

Copper sulfate (also used for plants) and zinc is constantly needed by this battery. Zinc sulfate additive problem can be solved by letting copper sulfate to dissolve some Zinc. More effective way may be usage of sulfuric acid which is used for lead batteries. Problem with time may be zinc. It will become rarity with time. Galvanized with zinc metal parts too.
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