Turquoise Energy Ltd. News #50
Victoria BC
Copyright 2012 Craig Carmichael - April 4th, 2012


http://www.TurquoiseEnergy.com = http://www.ElectricHubcap.com = http://www.ElectricWeel.com


Month In Brief
(Summaries)
* Ni-Mn alkaline batteries work, and may be made in China by ChangHong battery company
* Editorial: Social Sustainability

Feature: Magnetic Field Spacecraft Drive - The future of space travel? and Magnetic Field Motor?

Magnetic Impulse Torque Converter Project

* Slow going putting together motorbike converter, then wrong chain type
* Torque pulses are too weak - sigh!
* And now for something completely different: centrifugal clutches

NiMH Battery Project
* Better economy for electric mowers
* Battery sticks V3: custom rolled plastic tubes - thinner, lighter; better fit in tight places

Turquoise Battery Project
* Graphite powder in negatrode causes slight self discharge? - ugh!
* Zincate Solution - zincate on aluminum: no self discharge
* Contacted ChangHong Battery Co. about having them make NiMn flooded alkaline cells.
* Zincated aluminum grill spiral wrapped electrode: a new and simple way to make an electrode?, with better current capacity.

No Project Reports on: Electric Hubcap motor system, Weel motor, Sprint car conversion, Electric outboard from scratch, LED Lighting Project, DSSC solar cells, Pulsejet steel plate cutter



Newsletters Index/Highlights: http://www.TurquoiseEnergy.com/news/index.html

Construction Manuals and information:
Electric Hubcap Motor - Turquoise Motor Controller
- 36 Volt Electric Fan-Heater
- Nanocrystalline glass to enhance Solar Cell performance - Ersatz 'powder coating' home process for protecting/painting metal

Products Catalog:
 - Electric Hubcap Motor Kit
 - Sodium Sulfate - Lead-Acid battery longevity/renewal
 - NiMH Handy Battery Sticks
, Dry Cells
 - LED Light Fixtures
Motor Building Workshops


...all at:  http://www.TurquoiseEnergy.com/
(orders: e-mail [email protected])



March in Brief

   The month started with 2 weeks of income tax (complete with several omissions and errors), interspersed with some battery experiments and thinking about an idea for a magnetic field spacecraft propulsion system, and superconductors to make huge magnetic fields for that. It ended with an idea for a magnet motor powered by Earth's magnetic field, a torque converter that still wouldn't move even a motorbike while approaching the third anniversary of the project, and me feeling a little overwhelmed by all my unfinished projects and exciting ideas for new ones.

   In the battery experiments, I finally eliminated the last of the main nagging self discharge problems by using 'zincate solution' (can be purchased or made) to zinc coat aluminum rods instead of using galvanized nails - I guess the zinc coating on the nails must be impure or have gaps. (The hardware store shall know of my displeasure!)

   So (at long last) I had 2 volt alkaline batteries that stayed charged - great, but the conductivity was pathetic. They'd put out a few milliamps for hours at ever drooping voltages, but they wouldn't hit anything like an amp. I tried rolling up an electrode in zincated aluminum mesh, with a zincated aluminum wire sticking up. That would put far more metal in close touch with the negatrode substance, and thin sheet aluminum proved to be half the weight of the plastic. It proved surprisingly feeble. Perhaps my negatrodes were just too fat. They'd have to have 1/4 as much material or be made with another plan, such as flat plate grills.
   But it made a battery, and after a few days of charging, I did the following load test. It can be seen from the slope that it could have continued discharging for many more hours, at ever dropping voltages.



   Tentatively, the square perf plastic pocket positrodes seemed to hold their voltage somewhat better than the negatrodes. A fatter center post wire seemed to help a lot; so did tapered posts, but too many showed the turquoise color that said the copper wire inside was oxidizing. One fat wire corroded off and the post was replaced for the test above.
   I've decided to try making a tapered solid grafpoxy equivalent to the fat carbon rods in 'D' dry cells, with a short copper wire sticking out the top but not going in very far. I tried sucking the grafpoxy into drinking straws with a big syringe, but it seemed to leave hollow centers. Maybe some sort of sideways mold in polyethylene plastic.

   At last being pretty sure of the chemistry and essential workings, on the 27th I sent an e-mail to ChangHong batteries in China. Ian Soutar, who has been dealing with them for some time, has been suggesting this for some time, and sent a suitable introductory e-mail. They have a single assembly line (purchased from Varta in Germany) that makes flooded alkaline pocket cell batteries, both Ni-Fe and Ni-Cd in accordance with demand. It seemed to me they could almost as easily plate their negative electrode pockets with zinc and make manganese electrodes, Ni-Mn, to get 60% higher energy and voltage using the same assembly line. That would make them very competitive for electric transport as well as everything else.
   ChangHong's initial perception that a new chemistry would require making a wholly new type of battery, and their resistance to considering that, showed the value of having suggested only this one simple improvement to their existing product line. Offering more improvements - safer electrolyte, better positive electrodes, new electrode constructions - would only have confused the issue.
   Ni-Mn in KOH cells should be about 1.9 volts nominal - a 50-60% energy increase from the same cells off the same assembly line with almost no more expense. Not only does ChangHong have one of only three or four assembly lines in the world that could easily do this, it's the battery supplier for the Chinese government and military, so it seems unlikely it will be permitted to fall under the sway of corrupt business interests that would be likely to shut it down or curtail and ration its output.

   I have already stated that if Canada didn't support and commercialize my work, we'd soon be importing my inventions from other lands. Why would my wave power designs not have gone forward when the BC Ministry of Energy ocean energy official liked them so much in 2007, to provide the power we need here on Vancouver Island? - we have the best coastline in the world for it. I suspect granting me the few thousand dollars I asked for a proof-of-concept unit would have been the most important thing he could have done in his whole tenure in that position, but he had no authority to act even in a small way. Instead I left empty handed, and now eight billion or more dollars are to be spent on the Peace River Site C dam. Similar wave power units have since been re-invented independently in Denmark. The inventor got an award and government funding - we may be importing the machines from there. Denmark can do it; evidently BC and Canada won't or can't.
   The fact that there's really nowhere to go for support to create new things in Canada makes it almost problematic. Except for tax credit partial reimbursements for expenses already incurred, no one from the Prime Minister on down who has funding authority feels inventing the future has anything to do with them. Avro Arrow, hydro dams and other notable Canadian achievements aren't created just with verbal support or loaded IRAP 50% funding. I suspect in China I'd be making a very good living for doing the things I'm doing, and I've been told the government of Palestine (of all places) would dearly love to have me working there.
   But ChangHong's assembly line won't go far to fill the world's rapidly growing needs for more economical high energy batteries. My chemistries and designs for still better batteries are getting into more advanced stages, and they are public. There's still room.

   The magnetic field propulsion idea started with Jim Harrington's study of diamagnetics, materials repelled by any magnetic field, and progressed to rare earth supermagnets that are much stronger and can repel or attract, and then to superconductors, which can create humungus magnetic fields, and completely block fields trying to pass through them. The fields of the craft propel it by attraction or repulsion of planetary fields - Earth, the Sun, Jupiter, Ganymede...
   An experiment (repeated in two locations for verification) showed that supermagnets on a long thread hang slightly to the magnetic south or to the north, depending which way around they're facing. It's only around .001g with these magnets in Victoria BC, but motive force is there. Towards the magnetic poles it should be considerably stronger.
   That lead to thinking about making liquid nitrogen and potential materials like glassy mixtures of lithium/beryllium/boron and hydrides for higher temperature superconductors, design of superconducting magnet coils, etc. And it seems individual bismuth needle-like crystals are superconducting up to 15ºC... what can be done with that? Why did I have to think of this - don't I have enough to do? Others are downplaying the potential, but I think they're glossing over the possibilities for workable implementations, such as having (seemingly obvious) X Y Z axis magnets for three axis stabilization, or rapid computer adjustments of magnet orientation to maintain stability. It seems very exciting to me. I'd love to start with three supermagnets (or one with the computerized stability) and see if we could crash UVic's upcoming Ecosat low Earth orbiting satellite into the moon!

   At the very end of the month, I thought of a more Earthly application: It should be possible to get a magnet rotor to draw power to rotate continuously from Earth's magnetic field if it was set up right. But of the two forces - the one that wanted to twist the magnets into magnetic alignment and the one that wanted to move them linearly, the former was much the stronger, and that would need more than just static magnets glued to a ring.
   I quickly tried out a static rotor arrangement, but it would barely even act as a compass and face north with three aligned magnets, much less spin from the weaker linear force with nine magnets appropriately oriented.
   I figured out that the magnets on a rotor would have to rotatable but blocked from turning (eg) clockwise, and would all have to apply their clockwise "compass" twist to the whole rotor. Half way between north and south, each magnet would have to be flipped 180º counterclockwise as it passed small stator magnets that would overpower the Earth's field only right at the two midpoints. The forces are small and the friction would have to be overcome. Furthermore, the interactions between the magnets might well cause problems... but otherwise the theory seems good.

   As expected, it wasn't until late in the month that I got back to the torque converter, to make a magnetic impulse only implementation for the motorbike. I really wanted to get that done and test it. But "the devil in the details" was on his best game. The work, which seemed simple enough in principle, proceeded painfully slowly. I 'finished' it on the 29th and made a short demo video on the morning of the 30th, but when I put it on the bike, I found changes were needed to get it to work.
   On the 31st I got some parts and by the evening of April 1st I had it mounted with most of the adjustments done. On the 2nd it was cludjed together enough to try it... and the Sun was out! The pulses of torque were too weak, even for just a motorbike. I could have improved on it with a more magnets and copper, and maybe even got it to work. But it no longer seemed terribly promising.
   Partly because a highly suitable new centrifugal clutch had been brought to my attention at the store, I decided to use it to try an approach somewhat similar to the unfinished mechanical one prior to the magnetic idea. This unit was almost bound to work because its sprocket gear with only 10 teeth would give 6 to 1 reduction - probably enough to run the bike even with no torque converter. The improvements the clutch part made could be measured, and there were a couple of things I could try out using it.

Editorial - Sustainability: Physical and Social/Political

   Abraham Lincoln, IIRC, said that no foreign power could take away America's freedoms. If it was to lose them, it would be internal. In the last decade, the US congress has transferred many of its own valuable rights and prerogatives to the presidency (while they play computer card games and chat on Facebook during congressional sessions).
   But I'm agog that they would pass a bill that suspends the centuries old right of habeas corpus - no imprisonment without criminal charges, a trial and conviction. Soon in the USA anyone who's inconvenient to the government will be simply thrown in jail, even for life, and "terrorist" profiles - with the definition and determination of "terrorist" resting with the enforcement agencies - are even now being drawn up against everyone who has spoken out for change and progress in recent years. This is a devastating blow to liberty. Freedom of speech is vanishing. No one is safe. All the terror apparatus of a totalitarian state is swiftly being set up, and the USA now just needs an aspiring dictator to step in and use for his own ends the powers and organization that have been conveniently provided.
   Short of nuclear annihilation, this indeed appears far worse for America than anything any foreign enemy could possibly have inflicted on it.

   Turquoise Energy has been all about helping to evolve physically sustainable energy systems. An even higher cause is to develop socially sustainable systems. My proposed Department of Progress and the principles outlined in Fundamental Principles of Democratic Government - towards utopian systems of governance could be cogs in that wheel of sociopolitical progress.
   Today's superficially democratic and fundamentally dysfunctional systems of government badly need to evolve, but those who make it into power by 'virtue' of personal ambition saying "I can impose my philosophy and things will be better" - which has been gradually devolving to "I and my corporate friends can make piles of money if I attain political power" - have done so using the system as it is, so when they get there, they think it's a great system - it worked for them. Those who say "I can serve better to help create a peaceful, sustainable world", and original thinkers who might try to remedy deficiencies in the system, are shut out of the decision making process and out of the economic system by the very problems with that system. (And indeed those who speak up now appear to be in peril.) Political progress doesn't happen and seems impossible. We seem to have have come to an evolutionary dead end.

   How did we get to this point? We can go back to the beginnings of democracy. Those who set up the governing systems we have today saw them as great improvements over what existed before - and they were. But they couldn't be all-wise and foresee all the consequences before the ideas were tried. The "devil in the details" could only be discerned over long periods of time, and by then the systems had become traditions, "set in stone".
   The "illiterate's X" voting system was a big improvement over having no choices at all. But wherever there are more than two choices, not being able to rank them in order of preference and have the election results follow that ranking - so simple to do - brings about an unfair situation that polarizes the whole process and system. Instead of being a representative cross section of the electorate where bills are proposed, debated and enacted, legislatures become the site of a struggle for dominance between a small number of political factions who make their decisions behind closed partisan "party" doors and impose them if they can dominate the legislature, which then simply becomes a place where these partisan decisions are rubber stamped.
   Nor was it foreseen that parliament would become the executive seat of government as well as a legislature. The English kings who called parliaments were the executive leaders. Of course, the hereditary process of choosing the leader led to many unfit leaders, some much too young, and those who had 'been there too long for any good they might have done'. Parliament usurped the role in the English civil war, reducing the monarchy to a figurehead position. At that point, the executive and legislative branches of government had been inadvertently combined, to the detriment of both functions, and this dysfunctional system was passed on to many other lands.
   After the industrial revolution, as industry and commerce grew, they were never properly brought under the control of the not entirely functional elected governments. In some lands in the early 20th century, dictatorships fostered and abetted by industry usurped power. (This nearly happened in the USA in the 1930's - the well developed plot was foiled when the hard line general the corporate conspirators picked to be dictator instead blew the whistle to congress.) It took a world war to reverse the process and start restoring and extending democracy.

   I see 1948 as a pivotal point. When after a long trial GM, Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and Firestone Tire were convicted of the conspiracy by which they had shut down and ripped out America's entire trolley/rail transportation system, city by city, in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's, the companies received token fines and no responsibility was accorded to the individual conspirators.
   If any person had gone to a trolley yard and set fire to a trolley car, he'd have gone to jail. Alfred Sloan (GM president) and his cohorts burned them by the thousands and ripped up the tracks for selfish greed: in order to immediately sell diesel buses, petroleum and tires, and in the longer term to force people to buy gasoline guzzling cars. (They had already killed production of electric cars and (specifically GM/Sloan in 1926) Constantinesco's mechanical torque converter cars that used half the fuel. FDR's secretary of state had accused multimillionaire Sloan of being an unpatriotic lowlife a good 15 years previously. At GM headquarters was a folder full of newspaper articles collected from city after city telling of the horror, disgust and outrage of the people when their trolley lines were ripped out.) They committed socioeconomic treason: the utter destruction of the whole beloved electric transportation grid and infrastructure built up over decades by the hard earned dollars of the American taxpayer. And they did it with impunity.
   This travesty of justice sent a clear message and precedent that western, or least American, society would tolerate and overlook any crime, no matter how heinous, no matter how ruinous, as long as it was done under corporate auspices as a "business strategy". The die was then cast for ongoing future outrages leading to economic dictatorship, and the gradual deterioration and decline of western civilization, which I have been watching with amazement happening over my lifetime, great scientific and material progress in many areas notwithstanding.
   I can't help but think that big companies would have a wholly different attitude today if Sloan and his chief partners in crime had been hanged for their many crimes, which were cynically executed with malice aforethought and ruinous far, far beyond murder.

   So... where do we go from here?

   The biggest evolutions of government weren't gradual, they were sudden mutations. Without discussing earlier Greek and Roman democratic forms, the first English parliament was created by Simon de Montfort, who first created a council of 15 nobles to impose decisions on his brother in law, the irresolute king Henry III. Henry recovered ascendancy, then was defeated in battle by de Montfort, who created a council of 9 and ruled "in the name of the king", who was imprisoned. Wanting the support of the middle classes, de Montfort then called together knights from every shire and burgesses from selected towns, who first met in 1265. Although the parliamentary form was retained by Henry's son Edward I (who defeated de Montfort) and gradually evolved from there, it was born as a sudden mutation, an idea by one man.
   The American constitution and political system weren't conceived by a long drawn out process of committees and consultations. They were drawn up by a small group of people with some new ideas, and (I hear) some ideas from the Iroquois constitution - I suspect in good part it was formulated by inventor and writer Benjamin Franklin. (but I haven't checked this out.) This new mutation not only created legislatures, but replaced the hereditary monarch with an elected representative of the people and a limited term of office, while restoring a balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches. The only political part of the process was for the states to vote to accept what had been offered.
   Rule by monarchies, dictatorships, and lately communism became socially and morally bankrupt and these have mostly given way to more inclusive systems. But today most established parliamentary democracies and American democracy are also pretty much socially and morally bankrupt, uncontrolled economic tyranny having (so far) replaced direct political tyranny.

   We need to transcend the problems that have led to the current impasse and repair the systemic causes. The now disintegrating systems that nurtured the problems can't repair them or themselves from within. The world is just about ready for another sudden mutation to more functional and sustainable democratic systems and forms that prevent rogue elements from seizing economic control, to usher in a utopian future. When the time is ripe, it will appear. When will the time be ripe?

   Lucifer and his gang are gone and only the last manifestations of their selfish way of thinking - promulgating unreasoned fear leading to extremes of stagnation, hoarding and war - remain to be eliminated -- and the individuals caught up in these thought patterns forgiven. The angels say "Fear not!" They are on our side and there is a cosmic plan for this next sudden mutation, for the restoration and progress of our sphere.
   But it always comes down to each one of us. Change in the outer world starts with change from within. As the many begin to pray for enlightenment, progress and courage, then pause a few minutes to reflect for an answer, enlightened and courageous spirit led individuals will start to create an enlightened and progressing culture. Then the time will be ripe. In a new and improved translation of Jesus' Aramaic words: "Blessed are the moderate, for they shall inherit the Earth." ...but I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted!



Magnetic Field Spacecraft Propulsion - Magnetic Field Motor

   A team at the University of Victoria was planning to launch a small satellite with a camera on board, "Ecosat", into low Earth orbit. The infra-red camera science payload plan proved unworkable and was abandoned by the proponent. Suddenly, there was a satellite team with an empty satellite shell, and a launch set up, but no reason to launch it. The word went out locally that anyone who had some science project that could best be done in space could have a satellite to put it in and a team to operate it. Jim Harrington (who once made an energetic particle telescope (EPAC) for the Ulysses spacecraft that studied the sun from polar orbit), proposed to do an experiment making use of diamagnetic materials and doped fluorites to propel or orient a spacecraft.
   Diamagnetic materials are repelled by both north and south magnetic fields. You can levitate a flat piece of pyrolytic graphite just above supermagnets. Supermagnets themselves can be levitated by flat pieces of bismuth, and Harrington discovered that certain fluorite crystals can be strongly diamagnetic. He proposed that they could be repelled by magnets on board a spacecraft and the spacecraft would accelerate.  They could also be used to orient the spacecraft. A frictionless magnetic orientation system sounded plausible, but I said the magnet would be repelled equally the other way, and to think the arrangement would propel a spacecraft sounded suspiciously like perpetual motion.
   He replied that space is full of magnetic fields. This is true, and suddenly it didn't sound so silly. A material that could selectively be repelled or be neutral to a planet's magnetic field depending on orientation, like pyrolytic graphite, would allow both acceleration and navigation. The equal and opposite reaction of the acceleration would act against a whole planet, or the sun, through its magnetic field. Here, then, was the holy grail: weightless rocket fuel - the future of space travel!
   In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more practical it seems. At least the Earth, the Sun, Jupiter, Ganymede and Saturn have magnetic fields. They aren't absent even in interstellar space. Harrington had the idea of sending a probe to Alpha Centauri, which would gradually accelerate to near the speed of light and arrive in years rather than centuries.

   Closer to home, Earth's field turns magnets into alignment with the magnetic poles. Unnoticed, if the compass is closer to (eg) the north pole than the south, it's actually being slightly pulled towards it. If you turn the compass needle around, it's being pushed away. If it can orient material on the ground where there's friction, it can certainly orient it, and propel it, in space where there isn't.
   The main things that have been used or proposed to propel objects in space so far are rocket propulsion, ion drive, the solar wind, and the weight of photons - light from the sun. The first two work, but mass must be expended, limiting their operating time. Nothing pushing mass out the back can continually propel a craft in space for months or years as it flies towards a destination. Either the solar wind or light pressure would require sail areas measured in square kilometers of gossamer weight material to give a spacecraft even discernable acceleration - calculations show disappointing thrust. The forces of Earth's magnetic field are surely orders of magnitude stronger - the compass needle moves readily. A spacecraft could easily be oriented - and also propelled - by the same force.

   My first organized thoughts for implementation were to have rotatable pieces of pyrolytic graphite at distance 'n' from the center of mass on the X Y and Z axies. This would give the craft three axis stabilization, and when operated in unison, acceleration. Another option would have the three as smaller orienting devices, with one big piece right at the center of mass for main propulsion.
   Then I started wondering why one would use diamagnetic material rather than actual magnets. Magnets can either repel or attract, giving them better navigational and accelerational characteristics. Furthermore, diamagnetism is a pretty weak force, whereas supermagnets would be very powerful for maximum drive. To "turn them off" either there could be a magnetic shield moved into place around the magnet, or they could rotate slowly but continuously to cancel out their effects. (The latter is simpler, but on a long flight might tend to wear out the drive motors. In practice, acceleration would be desired for the first half of the voyage and deceleration for the second half, so the need to spin the magnets would be minimal at least until the destination was reached.)

   Consider a spacecraft as it orbits across Earth's north magnetic pole. Before reaching the pole, it turns its 'south' magnetic face to it. This is attracted, pulling the spacecraft faster. After passing the pole, the 'north' faces of the magnets are facing the pole, so it pushes the spacecraft faster. When it reaches the magnetic equator, it can turn the magnets around to gain the same effect from the south magnetic pole.
   The possibilities for navigation by orientation of the magnets at different points of the orbit are endless. Essentially, a spacecraft, once launched into low Earth orbit, can go anywhere - the whole solar system and beyond.
   The required continually changing magnet orientations to accomplish this are a bit complex to figure out. But that's what computers are for.
   NASA has apparently considered and (for now) essentially rejected magnetic drive. They consider it would only work effectively in the vicinity of the Earth, and that it wouldn't be feasible to use magnets to repel because of their instability - their strong tendency to flip around and attract. But this last is puzzling. With computer control of the magnet orientation and stabilization, and suitable design of the spacecraft, the stability is certainly available. Blocky Stealth bombers fly - with far more rapid computer adjustment of the control surfaces than spacecraft magnets would need. I think NASA is only considering one fixed magnet instead of three, and thinking more about magnetically accelerating stray space particles than about using planetary fields and the solar field. In the solar field, we are fortunate in that the sun's equator and magnetic field tilt are way off from the plane of the solar system, getting us half way into a "polar" orbit of the sun while in the solar system plane.

   My whimsical idea for the present satellite mission would be to test it by having it orient itself, start and then stop spinning, shift into a polar orbit, and then gradually make its orbit more and more elliptical by accelerating over the north pole on each orbit, until the orbit intersects the moon's - then crash it into the moon for a finale.
   A more interesting future mission would be to send a lightweight solar powered camera probe to Jupiter and explore its orbiting worlds, which are IMHO much more interesting than Jupiter itself. (See my several solar system space writings especially including Ganymede and Callisto at http://www.saers.com/recorder/craig/) Jupiter's powerful field should provide for excellent navigation. The craft could drop into orbit around each world, map it, drop down close and get some very close-up images, then leave orbit and go to the next one. (It could then even return to Earth, tho I'm not sure what the point of that would be.)

Supermagnets hanging ~.1" farther south than
when oriented facing the other direction.

   A test with supermagnets hanging from an 8 foot thread indicated at least .001g force pushing north or pulling south at Victoria BC - the magnets hung about .1 inch offset with the magnets one way around versus the other. (The test was repeated at another location just in case the results might have been influenced by local effects in the immediate vicinity.)
   The force would increase in strength towards the magnetic poles.
   Escaping from the Earth requires that twice the kinetic energy be imparted to the craft than to reach low Earth orbit. With rockets, it takes a lot of fuel to to send up the rocket with the additional fuel as well as the craft itself, so the rocket required is much more than twice the size.
   However, launched into low Earth orbit, even at .001g, where a spacecraft would take almost 20 minutes to accelerate only to the extent of falling for one second at the Earth's surface, the minutes, hours and days start adding up to acceleration to take the craft out of Earth orbit using the small rocket for launch, without any additional fuel.

   From relatively weak diamagnetic forces to relatively strong supermagnet forces, the idea goes from theoretical but probably impractical to probably workable - but I won't pretend to have worked this out in detail.

   Next in line is obviously to use superconductors to generate extreme magnetic fields. Perhaps the acceleration would then actually be felt by a crew on a manned craft. With a few hundred times the force of the supermagnet test, the craft might even lift off from the Earth at a magnetic pole - no rockets. In the most credible reports of UFO's (or least incredible, depending on your viewpoint), witnesses often described puzzling phenomena that would be explained by powerful magnetic forces. "The compass went wild." or similar words were the most common observation, followed by failure of electromagnetic systems such as car ignitions.

   So I started looking up substances like lithium, beryllium and boron, that have interesting properties in this regard. Surprise!: even ordinarily beryllium is more conductive than copper or silver by weight. Being less dense, it isn't more conductive by volume, so the wire would be a larger diameter, yet lighter. It was once reported (alas incorrectly) that room temperature superconductors had been created from them. In fact, they'd still need liquid nitrogen to cool them enough to test. However, once in space, by shading the coils and radiating heat, they could probably be cooled sufficiently without any liquid. The dark side of Mercury before dawn is the coldest place this side of Uranus or Neptune in spite of its proximity to the sun.
   Another substance that came to my attention was needle crystals of bismuth. The individual crystals are evidently superconducting up to 15ºC! (Bismuth is also diamagnetic. So are superconductors.) They can be arranged into a packet that's superconducting in one direction and an insulator in any other - a very interesting property. I don't know whether growing appropriate individual bismuth crystals to make magnet coils is feasible or not.
   If I'm the one doing experiments, the beryllium/lithium/boron in liquid nitrogen sounds more likely to be successful.
   Out of the blue on the 26th, someone sent me a link to an MIT Technology Review story about superconductivity research in Japan. It seems that superconductivity can be induced in iron teluride-sulfide if you add red wine to it and heat it. Various brands and flavors had varying effect - even beer worked. However, in the comments someone mentioned that the superconductivity occurred at 2ºK. Good grief!

   But also in the comments was a link to more interesting recent (Dec 2011) stuff: room temperature partial superconductivity in a substance built in layers. Whatever was working transistioned at 301ºK (28ºC), but only parts of the material were superconductive. So it's not ready for application, but it was the first time anyone had had to heat a substance instead of cool it to find the superconduction transition temperature. IIRC, I recall that "higher" temperature superconductors were first found around 1986. I'm sure many were as excited as I was that they'd soon be up to room temperature.

The link was: www.superconductors.org/28c_rtsc.htm , and without the "/28c_rtsc.htm" on the  end, it appeared to be the mother lode for superconductor info.

Magnetic Free Energy?

   I've always been skeptical of "zero point energy" and "perpetual motion". Whenever anyone says they have it, I'm just as much in the dark after reading their stuff as I was before. The only ones that even seem to come to a logical point are those that say they don't know how it's done because the US government has suppressed it.
   But on the 31st, I considered that a if magnet facing north is being pulled south (or vise versa), while a magnet facing the other direction is pushed the other way, there's potential energy in there. Okay, that could propel a spacecraft. What about on Earth?
   If the two magnets were on the east and west sides of a rotor, there would be a net torque being applied to that rotor. Furthermore both north faces (or both south faces) were facing forward: it wouldn't even be necessary that the magnets be movable, they could be fixed to the rotor. The rotor could be oriented horizontally or vertically north-south and, if friction were overcome, it would still turn.
   The idea seemed incredibly simple, and I decided to test it at once. I used 3, 6 and then 9 magnets sandwiched between two 11" PP-epoxy rotors (Hubcap motor body parts with holes spaced for 9 coils), with a plastic center piece balanced on the point of a center punch. It didn't work. But when I brought it down to two magnets facing the same way and it wouldn't even behave like a compass and point north, I decided the rotors must have too much weight and friction. (With three magnets it sort of faced north.)
   Perhaps I'll try making a large diameter, lightweight aluminum assembly, and hang it from a thread?

   On the other hand, the twisting force trying to point the magnet north is much stronger than the linear motive force. Perhaps by allowing the magnets to pivot through part of their rotation, some continuous non-zero twisting force could be had? All this wouldn't be "perpetual motion", tho that would appear to be the effect -- the energy would be actually derived from the Earth's magnetic field.
   I came up with a seemingly workable design on paper the night of April 2nd, but I have little faith that I could make it work, especially without making it into a major project. However, I'm no longer sure it can't be done, and in fact pretty sure it can. Whether it could prove to be as practical a source of free energy as solar, wind, waves, tides, running water or geothermal heat is questionable. But it would run "24-7", which is a good plus. It would doubtless need a lot of development. Again it just might boil down to working with huge magnetic fields from superconductors.





Magnetic Impulse Torque Converter Project

   I kept feeling that the torque converter as made in January wasn't going to move the Sprint car even if I got the springs working right, and I decided to do the motorcycle first. It finally occurred to me what the problem is: the "hammer rotor", despite the copper wedge and the counterweight, seems too light. The hits it makes against the output shaft will probably be insufficient to budge it.
   If that rotor was much heavier, then when the magnet rotor on the motor 'picks it up' - starts it turning, soon reaching almost the speed of the motor - it will take much more inertial force to do so, which would then be imparted to the output shaft rapidly as it hits its end stop. Hopefully as weight is added, the magnetic interaction will still be able to get it going and it won't slow the motor too much.

   Meanwhile, I had got the motorbike version, magnetic impulse only, underway.
   I took apart the motor from the dirt bike to change the shaft, and on the 21st I finally cut a new shaft and turned it down to fit the "idler gear" that was to have the the aluminum rotor with the copper wedge bolted to its side.
   Putting in a new shaft and then a couple of rotors and a gear onto it sounded simple enough, but a few "ten minute" work items stretched into days. I won't go into the gory details. On the 30th I made a little video of the unit on the bench, which showed the magnetic pickup and the 'hammer hits' idea.

   After uploading the video I put it on the bike. Two nuts protruded into the path of the chain, and because the sprocket was bigger, the chain was too short. (True, both these things could have been foreseen. Sometimes it would save me trouble if I was more methodical and planned the details more carefully.)
   The alignment of the motor also became quite critical with the arm (holding the copper wedge) swinging around right next to the sprocket - it was right next to the chain along its entire length, not just by the sprocket. I decided there needed to be more space between the arm and the sprocket. Then the sunny break in which I was working lifted and it went back to raining. In the shop I replaced the protruding nuts with larger, shorter flat head screws, threading the copper so they could screw in without protruding on the copper side, either.
   The next day I went to buy a few extra links of chain. I discovered that while the new sprocket was #40 chain, the bike was slightly different, #420, and the chain would only wrap about 1/3 of the way around the sprocket before it started riding up on the teeth. Since the new sprocket with the bearing was a special part for the converter, it was the rest of the bike that had to be redone. Back to Princess Auto. I found #40 chain and a 60 tooth, #40 sprocket for the back wheel. (60/17=3.5 x reduction - better than the 54 teeth of the original.) Of course the center hole was too small, and six bolt holes had to be drilled. I got it done, but that ended the month.
   Still, on April 1 and 2 I got everything cludjed onto the bike and tried it. The magnetic pulses of force were surprisingly weak and only got a bit of a ride with a slight downhill slope contributing half the force. Even for the bike this purely magnetic impulse converter needed more magnets and copper wedges. Mind you, I only put on one bank of battery sticks, considerably limiting the motor current, and the motor didn't seem to be running properly either - it ran better in one direction (unfortunately backwards) than the other, probably indicative of having a couple of phase wires reversed. (I should have fixed that on the bench.) As an alternative to multiple rotors, longer wedges extending both the strength and the length of the pulses (they seemed too short) might well have helped, ie, wedges and magnets extending 1/4 or even 1/3 of the way around the rotors instead of 1/5th. This would reduce the maximum torque gain to 4 or 3 or less instead of near 5 - still sufficient - but with somewhat more, and longer applied, force. I may try this sometime.

   But in the store there had been some other new parts besides the 60 tooth sprockets: centrifugal clutches. One had a 10 tooth sprocket for #40 chain. Here was something: with 10 teeth and the 60 now on the wheel, a 6 to 1 speed reduction, I think the bike should go even without a variable torque converter. I had wanted to try this ratio (or even higher) for a long time, but these new parts were the first sprocket pair that I'd found that would give more than 4 to 1 -- and it added the centrifugal clutch as a bonus.
   I decided to try a whole new approach using it, even if it meant gears instead of a variable converter. On April 3rd I went back and bought one.
   Anything useful the centrifugal clutch did for making unsymmetrical forces with strong and weak points instead of constant torque with no higher peaks would be an added bonus. In essence, my last, unbuilt, design before I tried switching to magnetic was a centrifugal clutch that would alternately catch and bounce, rumbling along with low losses rather than slipping smoothly along the drum and making heat. I can play a bit with this one. It's not quite the right shaft size, and I can mount either the input or the output slightly off center. If, for example, two shoes were removed and the output drum was off center, the shoes would hit the "high spot" on the drum and then retract again, giving something of a pulsing torque effect. And as the wheels get turning, the clutch will grab hold and give the desired direct coupling.
   I got the clutch installed on April 4th, with the off-center output but without removing any shoes. It looked good. But this newsletter was already past due, and the story will have to wait for next month. (Hmm... I hope the slightly off-center sprocket isn't a problem!)

   I also took another look at a more complex washing machine clutch setup I'd been given earlier. It had 3 sets of centrifugal shoes in two concentric drums. One pair grabbed the inner drum when the motor was going fast enough. One set worked backwards, the outer drum releasing the inner one at a set outer drum RPM instead of grabbing it. A control solenoid could stop a free-spinning third set of double in and out shoes or release it to spin - when spinning it would activate and again tie the inner to the outer drum regardless of the release of the backwards set. Could this make some sort of multi-speed transmission? Washing machines agitate clothes slowly, repeatedly reversing direction evidently with a lot of torque. Then they spin the clothes, gradually attaining a high speed - all from a single speed motor with no gears. Isn't good start-up torque and good highway speed without too high a motor RPM exactly what was wanted? Could a larger version work for a car? But I think it mainly works by allowing things to slip to attain specific speeds. That would never do for an electric car - but some of the ideas might be useful.

   A plan starts to form for the Sprint car: put the planetary gear on the motor. 2.8 to 1, times 4 to 1 from the chain drive to the differential, gives 11.2 to 1. If the motor provides 9 or 10 foot-pounds, that's over 100 at the wheels - that should be sufficient, but the top speed will be only about 20 Km/Hr. Now: just below that speed, have a solenoid release "brake shoes" holding the body of the planetary gear. It will start to spin freely and the wheels won't be driven. Then have shoes on that spinning body that grab the planets assembly. Or something to that effect. The planetary gear then locks up and starts turning 1 to 1 instead of 2.8 to one (leaving the 4 to 1 chain), and the car, with 40 foot-pounds torque, can accelerate from 20 to about 55 Km/Hr. Good enough for a city only car in Victoria.



NiMH Battery Project

Shrinking the packages: custom diameter thin tubes

   I tried some of the "quintos" battery sticks in a friend's 24 volt lawnmower. But I could only fit in one set - 10 amp-hours. The two original compact lead-acid batteries (one was dead, after only 3 years) were 20. Even with two sets the weight would have been cut from 30 pounds to 18 and the batteries should of course last many years... but I couldn't fit them in. Earlier a friend had found the requisite PVC tubes wouldn't fit into the battery space in his electric bicycle. They always seemed to take up more space than they should, and this sometimes matters. And the quintos weighed extra, 4-1/2 pounds instead of 4 (per 12 V, 10 AH bank). A smaller tube would help a bit. (Considering that the equivalent battery in AA size in a light case is only 3 pounds, we're really losing energy density here!)

   I started thinking, 20 AH at 24 volts needed 40 D cells. At 9$ each, that would be 360$ - ouch! That just seemed like way too much to ask. I bought a whole gas mower a couple of years ago for under 150$. But I didn't get the job done, and my friend's lawn was growing. He bought one new lead-acid cell, and it came to 100$! (I thought they'd be half that.) Replacing both as recommended would thus be 200$. The NiMH D cells thus are seen as an economy: less than twice the price, and they would last many times longer.

   Another consideration was marketability. I'd only managed to sell one car battery in a year, and that was a soldered one, before the battery sticks. If the sticks were smaller, they'd look more impressive under the hood.

   With only one bank of dry cells, the mower ran 'in the yellow' - slightly low voltage -  since it drew 20 amps, and more when it hit tall grass. Not a surprise. I noticed too that the cells were warm (as well as drained) after around 10-15 minutes of mowing. This was concerning not in itself, but for the 70 amp-hour "super battery sticks", with 7 rows of cells in one tube. They might get quite hot if asked to drain as fast in a car, eg going up an extended hill, maybe on a highway. At least they should have the center column, which would get hottest, replaced by a ventilation tube through the middle, leaving 60 AH. ...or should they be eliminated entirely and replaced with smaller sets?

   On the morning of the 30th, I dug out some pieces of 1/16" ABS plastic, heated them in the oven, and rolled them into tubes. My vacuum cleaner wand was just the right size to roll them around. (Later I found a 5' aluminum pipe exactly the same diameter.) After a couple of tries, I found the best plastic piece size for quintos was about 6-1/8" x 4-5/8", leaving abut a 1/2" seam to glue the tube together. (Since the sheets come in multiples of 12" sizes, 6" would be close enough for the length.)
   Although they were rather 'lumpy', they fit inside the PVC tubes. Five tubes in a row occupied 7.4". Five of the old ones were 8.5". Checking the mower battery case it looked like they should fit exactly - four sets of five for 24 V, 20 AH.
   Then I considered that one could make a single flat oval tube, for example five cells wide by one tall and have the quintos all in one minimal size and weight package. ...or maybe 3 x 5 and have a 30 cell car starter battery ...or perhaps 1 x 4 x 24" for 40 AH x 12 V electric car batteries.

   I ordered and got plastic to make more and looked for a hole saw the right size. I tried making an 1x5 by two 'D' cells oval to have 'quintos' in one container. My main conclusion is that I need some better jigs to shape the pieces more exactly, because they look ugly and misshapen. Or cut and glue together square cases without heating and bending the plastic. (Wait... aren't they supposed to be battery "sticks"?)



Turquoise Battery Project


Small diameter 1/4" pocket electrodes from late February.
3 zinc coated wire electrodes were twisted together - two corroded off -
doubtless bending them to solder them to a zinc coated nail made a gap in the coating.
The cell worked much better with just the remaining one.

Effects of toluene on graphite conductivity

   I found an interesting test for this: dipping grafpoxied wires into toluene.
   For the first wire, contact resistances to a meter probe before dipping measured in the range of 100+ ohms. After it had evaporated, it seemed about the same... or were a few more of the readings a little lower? Then I dipped a wax one that was around 4000 ohms. It seemed to me it was a little lower - more readings around 2000, but I still wasn't sure. So I dipped another wax one that was upper 100's of ohms near the tip and over 1000 higher up. It didn't seem to change much - it might have been down a bit.
   Since you get a different reading every time you touch the meter probe, it's pretty hard to tell.
   Then I thought to leave one in toluene longer instead of just dipping it in. Before, it was 150-220Ω in the good spots. After, it seemed to me most readings were under 200.
   All in all, toluene does seem to help to an extent, but it seems to me that leaving it in longer has little or no extra benefit.
   (I also noticed for the first time that many of the 4" wires were better near the tip... When I coated them, they were vertical, sticking up from holes in a piece of wood. I guess the epoxy flowed down a bit, leaving more graphite particle concentration at the top.)
   Since I'm pouring a little toluene into finished electrodes anyway (when I remember to) for the benefit of the graphite powder, there's no need for dipping the wires in separately in advance. But the test helped quantify the extent - maybe 3/4 or 2/3 of the original resistance - of the helpful effect of toluene.

   I wonder if the Diesel Kleen is better?

Faster Perforating

   A concern I had considering using a laser to cut and perforate the electrode plastic pieces was that it might take a few seconds to burn each perforation where the sewing machine made perhaps 7-10 gashes per second. Even tho the machine would operate unattended, it could be slow going.
   Then I got the idea that as many laser diodes as desired could be spaced one electrode piece width or length apart, and make as many pieces at once as desired. The speed, whatever it was, could be multiplied by any small integer, perhaps as much as 16 - 4 x 4 perforated electrode covers at once, if the production was too slow with one. My order had three laser diodes and two collimating lenses, but I didn't get around to getting it all set up and programmed.

What, Manganese on BOTH Sides?

   Duh! It's amazing how we humans can pursue "not the best" down an intriguingly complex path trying to make it work, or work better, and completely miss better but simple things. I've worked hard to get neutral pH cells, partly so nickel could have the highest voltage (+1), so the cell could have higher energy density by virtue of having higher voltage. But nickel as manganate is NiMn2O4. It performs better than Ni(OH)2, but it literally contains two MnO2's, and 2/3 of the weight of a third,  and yet gives the electrochemical benefit of only one nickel. At best, it moves about 1.75 electrons per reaction. 2-2/3 MnO2's moves probably 2-2/3 electrons in discharging fromMnO2 to MnOOH or Mn2O3. So I started thinking about MnO2, the other common positrode substance besides nickel. Just as I finished up last month's newsletter, some of what I myself had said in it started to connect. I began to realize that the "problems" with using manganese are largely illusory or inapplicable:

* It's been said that MnZn 'renewable' cells have to be charged carefully to prevent charging the Mn to a higher oxide. ...but first, it doesn't really look like it should be a problem anyway, and second, if it is, it just means needing a charger made for the type of cell (which is hardly unusual). At neutral pH it would have to be more severely overcharged to become KMnO4. In fact, at pH 8 to 13 there isn't a soluble form in sight, and at 7, only if the cell is discharged to nothing. (In the standard dry cell, it's the dissolving zinc side that won't effectively recharge, not the manganese.)
   Besides... would having it charge to potassium permangante actually be a problem? It's  little soluble, and it has a higher voltage.

* In alkaline cells, MnO2 is only +.15 volts - seems rather pathetic - but at neutral pH, it's +.5. In fact, having higher amp-hours per kilogram, it has 11% higher theoretical energy density than nickel hydroxide at +.5 volts in alkaline batteries. (...in fact, 42% more if it charges and discharges fully, since Ni(OH)2 effectively only discharges 3/4 of the way.)

   When I later made a cell, it turned alkaline, and it charged to manganate or permanganate for a cell voltage well over 2 volts, so it had high voltage and high amp hours.

   On the other hand, the advantages of MnO2 (theoretical before making the cell) make an impressive list:

* The voltage (at pH 7) is only 1/2 that of nickel, but considering all the additives nickel needs the amp-hours per kilogram are probably almost double, so the energy density is actually nearly as high.

* Double amp-hours in the positrode means double the matching negatrode, which (as I noted) is where the high energy density is. Therefore, doubling the amp-hours increases the overall energy density much more than doubling the voltage. Even if the voltage was zero, double the amp-hours would still mean more energy. (The Mn negatrode is 1150 WH/g of Mn; The positrodes are only around .1 to .15 WH/g of MnO2 or Ni(OH)2.)

* It's even more conductive than [my] nickel manganate (& far more than nickel hydroxide) for high current capacity. Especially it'll make better performing DIY cells - which for DIY can make the difference between frustration and success.

* It's cheap - the main ingredient of the whole battery is the same one as for throwaway dry cells.

* Using dry cell MnO2/graphite mix, the ratio of identical size electrodes is exactly two positrodes for each negatrode, since the positrode reaction moves one electron per Mn atom, the negatrode moves two, and the starting substance is the same. It was looking like the nickel would need 4 or 5 to 1. (So much for my alternating electrode "checkerboard" pattern!) 5 to 1 would be six electrodes total instead of three with MnMn - nearly double the size and weight for a cell having only 1/3 more energy by virtue of higher voltage.

* It has low self discharge. (Like the standard dry cell.)

   The cells will be only about 1.5 or 1.6 nominal volts instead of about 2 volts, theoretical open circuit voltage being about 1.68. More cells will be needed to attain a given voltage. But those cells will each be little more than 1/2 the size for the same amp-hours capacity. 3/4 the voltage but double the capacity is 1.5 times greater energy density in each cell.

   It all seemd very simple until I made a cell. It seemed to charge fine to manganate or permanganate rather than just to dioxide. But there was the nagging possibility that the cycle life of the cell would be short owing to the slightly soluble ions. Anyway, as I was considering the cell...

MnO2 (+) theoretical capacity: 307 AH/Kg.
At +.5 V, that's 154 WH/Kg.
Mn (-, metal) theoretical capacity: 976 AH/Kg.
At -1.18 V, that's 1151 WH/Kg.

The relative weights:
2 positrodes * 87 = 174
1 negatrode * 55 = 55
total: 174 + 55 = 229

Energy:
(174 * 154 + 55 * 1151) / 229 = 393 WH/Kg

   Of course, the cell also needs water, graphite, plastic, etc, and these are theoretical maximum values. Still, all the other stuff should only double the weight... at least for factory made cells... leaving it very close to 200 WH/Kg, a figure fit to drool over. But even if the weight was tripled in DIY cells, 131 WH/Kg is hardly second to lithium ion at 140 WH/Kg when it's 1/10th the price, if that!

   Once I got into it, I realized it had even more energy potential than was obvious. Having discharged to Mn2O3 or MnOOH at valence 3, Mn can further discharge to Mn3O4 at valence '2.5' at .4 volts lower voltage. If the equipment being run can handle that, that's another 50% longer running time at, eg, 1.2 volts instead of 1.6 volts, simply by adding 50% more of the lightweight negative side. Even that isn't the ultimate limit, because the Mn3O4 can discharge to Mn(OH)2, valence 2, with another voltage drop of about .25 volts, cell voltage under 1.0. That's the ultimate limit because the negative side also discharges to Mn(OH)2. This doubles the amp hours, tho the energy is less than doubled because of the lower voltages, for less than 25% more cell weight. Theoretically (without working it out in detail) it would be around 700 WH/Kg.
   At 1.6 volts nominal, 22 cells would be needed to get (about) 36 volts. At 1.2 volts, the battery would be down to 26 volts, and at .95, 21 volts. The user would be alerted to the fact that a recharge was needed and yet would have considerable reserve capacity.
   Of course, a 36 volt motor running on 26 or 21 volts will be underpowered and the top speed will be considerably lower. But I think having at least enough negative to allow the 26 volt range would be well worth the extra 10% weight. Voltages would stay higher towards the end of the 36 volt range, and currents would be improved by the higher content of metallic Mn towards the end of charge. And there's that emergency reserve at 26 volts...



This was drawn before realizing that the positive electrode would charge to permanganate,
giving both the high voltage of nickel and very high amp-hours.
With that, 3 negatrodes should match each 2 positrodes - Wow!
(or maybe about 1 to 1 without graphite in the negatrode.)

First MnMn Cell Tries

   MnMn looked far too promising to not make a cell or two and try it out. They worked well, and had far less self discharge than any of my previous ones - they were actually usable except for having very low current capacity. At least 5 up to 50 times as much would be a big help.
   The voltage, especially of the second cell, was higher than expected, too. In theory at neutral pH it should be +.5 - -1.18 = 1.68 volts, or in alkaline at best +.15 - -1.56 = 1.71 volts. After some charging, it gradually drifted down from about 2.2 volts, and it seemed to sit at, and to recover to after a load test, over 1.8 volts. Well, I wasn't complaining. Then it occurred to me that the positrode must be charging to potassium manganate or permanganate after all.
   The pH was strongly alkaline at 14. For the positive I used a negative I'd been using against a nickel positive in KOH (after pulling out the zinc current collector and inserting a grafpoxy one), and tho I tried to dilute it out several times, it probably still had some in there. I'll have to make a completely fresh one and see where it goes - the pH of the first one was lower. But it too might have turned alkaline over time.

Pure Mn Negatrode

   I had been using dry cell manganese with graphite for the first few 'trodes. On re-reading part of the Tehran paper, I noticed it talked about conductivity additives for zinc electrodes:

"
Other additives such as graphite and metal powder can act as electronic contacts between the zinc particles. Some of these may cause passivity, gassing and/or lowering of the specific energy."

   Perhaps that's why Alkaline Storage Batteries said 'pure' zinc electrodes are made, with no conductivity enhancer? Unfortunately, that book says what's done but rarely gives reasons. Could the remaining self discharge be attributed to the graphite powder? Grafpoxy current collectors certainly seemed to gas and be unusable. In fact, a purpose of the "optalloy" was as a powder conductivity additive to the electrode as well as a current collector. There was however a favorable favor: the stibnite, even if it didn't fix a grafpoxy terminal post, might perhaps raise the overvoltage of the graphite powder sufficiently, as well as of the manganese. Was there any reason that wouldn't work? Later in the month, trials seemed to show serious self discharge, tho now over days rather than minutes or hours. By that time, one 'pure Mn' (no graphite) electrode had failed (trouble with the zincating), and I was doing the torque converter and didn't get around making and testing another.

   In the meantime, I was in doubt. I made a 1/2" square cylinder negatrode with pure MnO2, plus the 1% stibnite, 2% Veegum, and 1% Sunlight dishsoap. They just use zinc oxide powder (+ overvoltage additive & binder) for zinc electrodes, and the Mn does charge to metal particles, which should be pretty conductive without graphite. I got in about 20 grams of MnO2, about 13 theoretical amp-hours. It started off seeming like pretty poor conductivity. The cell was somewhere around 13 ohms. Let's see... charging a 13 amp hour electrode at 30mA should take... about 2-1/2 weeks - zounds! It actually seemed to stop taking further charge after about 1/2 that time. But it didn't seem to become notably more conductive.

   The cell with this electrode was the first one with a proper high voltage negatrode to have such low self discharge that it would actually be usable as a practical battery. (contributing to my doubts about graphite powder.) After sitting 24 hours, the voltage was still about 2.13 volts, having dropped fairly rapidly to about 2.20, after a few hours to 2.16, and then taking many more hours to drop to 2.13.
   This electrode had one other improvement: the first 'zincated' aluminum current collector post - more on that below. That was its second post; it had considerable self discharge with the first one, a galvanized nail. So whether the graphite powder was causing self discharge, or was 'fixed' by the stibnite as seemed likely, was still in question.
   Another question was why the conductivity was so low. It didn't seem there was much connection between the electrode substance and this second post. That was certainly something that needed improvement.

   A thought for an entirely different conductivity additive struck me: Zinc has the overvoltage and (evidently, with the pure zinc electrodes) the conductivity, and it discharges to oxide at a bit lower voltage than the manganese. That means zinc powder should remain in its most conductive metallic state as long as the Mn isn't totally discharged, and so it should work better than it does in a zinc negatrode. Perhaps Zn should replace graphite in the negatrode?

   To continue the story of this electrode somewhat out of sequence, I added some zinc chloride to the electrolyte. It was slightly acidic (having been made from ZnO + HCl). After a day of charging at low current, the voltage was almost 3 volts and the pH was about neutral. When the charge was removed, it dropped down to 2.52 volts. If I lifted the electrode out part way, the voltage went up, and it reduced when it was lowered again. So I put in a piece of separator paper. Then it stayed at 2.56 volts.
   It would scarcely drive a few milliamps, tho, before dropping down rapidly to under a volt. When the load was removed, the voltage went back up to about the same rather perplexing figure.
   By measuring each electrode against the voltage of the water itself, it became apparent that about half the voltage was from each electrode, and further that the negatrode was mainly the one that wouldn't conduct current. (AHA! The pocket cell electrodes give a way to tell which electrode is doing what!) With no load, it was about the prescribed -1.18 volts for Mn metal in neutral pH electrolyte. The positrode was at least as high in the other direction and didn't drop much with the load.
   I must conclude that the zinc chloride wasn't effective at raising the conductivity of the 'pure Mn' negative. This surprised me - I was sure it would start to plate through from the post outward and make good connections. Instead white stuff - presumably there was too much zinc chloride for it all to dissolve - seemed to be simply clogging the perforations and making it worse. That left adding ZnO, or immersing in zincate solution. The latter was the obvious option for this existing electrode.

Negatrode with metallic Mn

   Before trying the "zinc infiltration" ideas above, I decided to make another one with some of the Mn metal powder (7g) in it as well as dry cell MnO2/graphite (13g), to see if it would have better conductivity. Theoretically it should have a couple more amp-hours, but I think the center of the metal particles will never discharge, so probably it should be about the same.
   I put it in the cell. Immediate results weren't spectacular, but then I remembered that I'd meant to pour on some toluene to get the graphite to dissolve and reform. Oops. I took it out and left it to dry overnight, putting the other one ("pure" MnO2) back in to charge more.
   The next morning I poured a little toluene on the top. It didn't seem to affect the PVC, but the ABS bottom plate became soft and sticky. That meant the toluene had penetrated through the entire electrode - good! I left it a few more hours for the toluene to evaporate.

   A couple of days later, I removed the top cap and checked the actual contact resistances to the electrode material. Readings were in the K ohms. Apparently I was setting myself up for another conductivity failure with my careless work. I pulled out the galvanized nail and scraped out the substance. I added more graphite powder, a bit of Sunlight, and a little water, tamped it down in the mortar, and checked again. Low x100's. I added graphite a couple more times. It ended up as mid x1-'s of ohms between any two points.
   I stuffed 23 grams of this into the electrode, then I took a drill bit and dug a hole for the center post. I got 1 gram back out, total 22 grams of some inexact mix of MnO2, surface hydrated Mn powder, Sb2S3, Sunlight dishsoap, and Veegum.

   This electrode got a 'zincated' aluminum rod also sprayed with 'cold galvanizing spray' and sintered in the oven. This is covered further down. This was replaced with a simple zincated one. It also didn't get put in a cell and a few days later, the resistance readings were [your favorite expletive here], for no evident reason.
    That was about when I started to consider that graphite probably didn't have the required overvoltage (maybe even with the stibnite?) and might cause gassing and self discharge. If it didn't hold a charge, that would be why.

Mn Negatrode with Zn conductivity enhancer

   With the 'pure' Mn electrode having poor conductivity, something to try was to replace graphite powder with zinc powder. If all went well, zinc metal powder should in fact be more conductive than graphite powder. A down side was potential degradation of the electrode if it was discharged so far that the zinc started turning into oxide. On the other hand, if it only happened once or twice, it might actually improve it.

   I mixed 12g calcined ZnO, 12g pure MnO2, .3g Sb2S3, .25g Veegum, .4g of Sunlight and a bit of water. (Toluene to dissolve graphite seemed superfluous since there was no graphite.) After the MnO2 converts to Mn(OH)2, the zinc should charge to Zn metal particles, then the Mn(OH)2 should charge to Mn metal particles. After that, it's intended that the Zn stay charged to conductive metal with a high hydrogen overvoltage, while the Mn charges and discharges with cycling.
   A 'zincated' aluminum post - evidently an effective type - was the current collector.
   The resistance readings were very high, kilohms, but the ZnO should charge up to metallic Zn.
   Probably it has substantially more Zn and more Sb2S3 than required, and the Veegum might be unnecessary. More or less of the dishsoap might be tried.
   I went to stick it in KOH for a while to eliminate any ZnCO3 (or MnCO3?) that might have formed. Then it occurred to me that the zincate solution was NaOH with dissolved zinc... If I stuck the Mn electrode in this solution instead, perhaps in addition to eliminating carbonate, a fine film of pure zinc would be electrodeposited throughout the electrode. If it didn't encapsulate the MnO2 entirely, it might work better than the ZnO powder. Furthermore, if any zinc had been scraped off the aluminum rod, it should get replaced.
   So I put the electrode in a jar with a little of that instead of KOH. Over 1/2 hour, bubbles indicated that zinc plating - or at least some reaction - was occurring. After an hour I took it out and put it in a jar of water to dilute out the NaOH.

   Building on this theme, it occurred to me that I could use one of zinc's notorious characteristics, that of building stringy zinc 'dendrite' crystals as it charges, to further improve internal conductivity of the electrode. Use HCl to turn ZnO into ZnCl2, which is somewhat soluble, and becomes (temporarily) part of the electrolyte. When a zinc Zn++ ion hits an active bit of the negatrode as it charges, it picks up two electrons and becomes Zn metal. This picks up more zinc, building conductive networks through the electrode until the zinc in the electrolyte is depleted. Again, it isn't intended to discharge the cell to where the zinc discharges - it stays metal.
   This idea seemed promising enough to try out on the previous electrode already in a cell. The only notable effect should be an increase in the lamentable cell conductivity - without having added zinc directly to the mix at all. It seemed to give it some self discharge. The new electrode still had huge resistances after the zincate bath. Nothing to do but try it out...

   Next came a new battery case and a matching positrode. I used dry cell MnO2 (20g) with a bit of Sunlight for binder (.35g) and a bit of Nd2O3 (.5g) to raise the oxygen overvoltage. I compacted in about 15g of this mix. As I was shoving in the grafpoxied copper wire post, when it was pretty much in it suddenly kinked, exposing bare copper. I melted on some graphited wax, which then also formed the top cap. I guess the toluene would have had to be introduced through the perforations... but I forgot it.

   The cell started at 1.4 volts - after all, it was dry cell MnO2, probably mostly charged, and there was charged metallic Mn in the negative. Conductivity was poor, and putting one meter probe in the water indicated it was mostly the negative that was the problem. But as it started to charge, the 2.25 volt charging voltage reading gradually started dropping, even while the off-charge voltage was going up - the zinc was charging to metal and increasing the conductivity. Gosh, for once one of my plans seemed to be working! Off charge voltage was quickly getting up around 1.9 volts - usually that took a day of charging, while on charge dropped to 2.18. Albeit, the current in all this was only about 20 mA.

   After dousing a second negatrode in 'zincate', I found that the voltage dropped lower after charging than it had previously, it still had poor conductivity, and the voltage dropped rapidly under load. Then I realized that the zincate covering might have been more effective than intended... the electrode seemed to be charging only to Zn voltage instead of to Mn, and only the superficial coating of zinc was charging and discharging.

Further positrode substance considerations

   If the pH is going to be 14 notwithstanding the neutral KCl salt electrolyte, and as it appears the cell is charging to manganate or permanganate anion, the question comes up as to what the cation is going to be. Potassium permanganate is slightly soluble - I'm not sure about potassium manganate.
   I suspect nickel manganate - the very substance I was making last month - isn't soluble. I'm confused by its formula, supposedly NiMn2O4 instead of NiMnO4, when it's Ni++ and the manganate ion is MnO4--. Could someone have written it wrong and everybody else just copied it? Certainly that sort of thing happens. On the other hand, "manganate" can evidently be employed as a broader term.
   If nickel manganate - at least my nickel manganate - were actually NiMnO4 like it ought to be, perhaps the reactions would be manganate reactions rather than nickel reactions. The nickel could become... NiCl2?... while the MnO4-- became MnO2, moving two electrons at about +.6 volts. (The nickel might become hydroxide or chloride.) That might very well work! Charging to manganate would explain the higher voltages I've been getting - about the same as with the nickel manganate.
   That would probably mean that the nickel manganate has the same reactions as manganese, and is much better than nickel hydroxide.
   Arrgh, chemistry! It's too confusing. If I can get better conductivities I can charge electrodes up in a day instead of in weeks, and then measure amp-hours. Then it will become more apparent empirically what works best. I'm suspecting again that it's the nickel manganate, and that that substance has manganese reactions and not just nickel reactions. However, one thing that's becoming clear is that the cells are working either way. If it's not too much extra weight (or none), nickel manganate would probably have better (not to say indefinite) cycle life, and so might be a better choice than straight manganese oxides.

   I decided that instead of replacing the negode of the first cell, I'd make another one and continue charging the Mn-Mn cell. - which after a couple of days I could hardly get any current into at less than about 2.7 volts. The new negatrode sat idle a while.

   Common thing stumbled across... I more or less remember this from elementary school, but I don't think the teacher gave us the numbers. Now if I can find ordinary red litmus paper, I should be able to distingush "just high enough or better" alkaline pH from neutral, electrode dissolving pH.

BLUE LITMUS PAPERS: Blue litmus paper turns red in an acid solution below pH 4.5. Blue litmus paper stays blue in a base.
RED LITMUS PAPERS: Red litmus paper turns blue in an alkaline (base, alkali) solution above pH 8.3. Red litmus paper stays red in an acid


Negative current collector coatings

   Tin:Silver 90:10 (or was it 95:5?) Solder

   I don't know if the usual stuff with 3% silver will work (must try it), but a higher silver content solder does. An electrode with such a current collector isn't self-discharging. To increase the silver content, melt the silver solder in a pot on the stove. Don't get it too hot - you definitely don't want to boil tin or zinc as the fumes are harmful. Stir in pieces of silver. They form an alloy with the tin one atom thick on the surface. This alloy's melting point is below the stove temperature, so it melts, exposing more silver surface, and thus the silver gradually "dissolves" into the mix. The melting point of silver is much higher than the stovetop, so at some concentration of silver in the tin, no more will go in, and you soldering iron might not melt it. A little copper, nickel or zinc in the mix shouldn't hurt. (In fact, zinc helps with overvoltage. Tin-zinc solder might work nicely too... or will it corrode? - must re-read that Iran research paper!)
   If you have 100 grams of 97:3 tin-silver solder and add (just over) 2 grams of silver, it's 95:5, or 7 grams for 90:10. The sluggish flow characteristics of such a solder are less important than the fact that it will coat a metal surface and give it a high hydrogen overvoltage.
   Since your pot solder has no flux, use an electronics store paste flux or Kester "44" resin flux, not acidic plumbing flux (which will wreck your soldering iron tip, and any residue will gradually eat the wire). Organochloride flux fumes are evidently harmful to breathe (think "Methoxychlor" insectiside), so avoid those types too if you see them.

   After writing this, I looked at a couple of tables of hydrogen overvoltages. According to that table, silver isn't high enough. Of the useful metals listed, only zinc (-.75 or -.77 volts) is above about half a volt. The voltages just work: -.833 for hydrogen itself + -.75 or -.77 for zinc = -1.58 or -1.60, and the Mn's voltage is -1.55 or -1.56. It's possible that an alloy such as tin-silver may be higher than either element alone, and tin is -.49 volts. But I think I'll stick with zinc anywhere below the water line, reserving the solder only - just possibly - for connecting negative terminal leeds just under the top cover.

   "Zincate" on Aluminum

   I thought a 4" galvanized (zinc dipped) nail would be a great current collector. It worked (well, sort of - it was the cause of the remaining self discharge), but it weighed 9 grams for a negatrode with 20 grams of Mn, immediately diluting the energy density by 1/3. (The perforated plastic shell is about 5 grams.) That's okay for off-grid energy storage, not so good for electric transport. So I thought of aluminum instead of steel as being much lighter for a fat current collector wire. The density of iron/steel is 7.8, and aluminum is 2.7, so it would only weigh 3 grams. But there are problems with using aluminum.
   At CaswellPlating[.com; caswellcanada.ca] I found "Zincate Pretreatment" for aluminum. Per Caswell's description: Aluminum forms an oxide layer the minute it is exposed to air, which prevents plating [and solder] from sticking. The Zincate dip process chemically removes the oxide layer and at the same time applies a layer of zinc.
   A single dip that puts a layer of zinc on aluminum! - that sounded perfect, so I ordered some. My main concern was that the layer might be very thin and wear/scrape off as the wire was pushed into the electrode. But I figured if that was the case, I could solve it by using the "cold galvanizing spray" to add more zinc to the initial coating, then heating it in the oven to help it spread and fuze. (as with the motor rotors and other zinc primed steel parts.) Again the zinc spray by itself wouldn't work directly on the aluminum's surface oxide without the pretreatment.

   When it arrived, I took an aluminum rod and immersed it in the "Zincate Solution". When this was stuffed in the hole and pulled out, the zinc layer appeared to have been rubbed off, as I suspected it would be. I zinced it again, then sprayed it with "Cold Galvanizing Compound" ("97% zinc powder" spray can), two coats, and put it in the oven at 225ºC for 20 minutes to sinter it. Magnified, the finish was very matt and porous - sintered. Of course, none of the pores should penetrate the 'zincated' coating underneath, and nothing would get in to rub it off.
   I shoved it into the electrode. Resistance readings were interesting: around 37-60 ohms from any point to any other (depending how hard you pressed). But when I tried to measure to the post, the readings were bizarre - megohms  or kilohms, negative or positive, and nothing consistent at all. I locked the meter on xxx.x Ω scale and got, eg, 220Ω with the meter probes one way, and -135Ω the other. Maybe if the electrode was totally dry?
   Giving up on measuring that, I decided to try diesel kleen instead of toluene. I removed the top cap and poured a little on and left it to reek, er, soak.
   Later the resistances seemed about the same. I'm not sure it really soaked in - I wiped some liquid off the top of the cap a couple of times. But the post didn't seem very tight. I gave it a twist and it seemed to grab on. When I checked resistances to the post, they were in the lower x10's of ohms - even a 9.8Ω reading. Too bad I didn't check them before I twisted.
   After charging the cell a day or so, I pulled out the rod. It appeared that all the zinc, or at least all the 'cold galvanizing spray', had come off. Not good!

   However, I had 'zincated' another piece of aluminum rod, and with no overcoat I put it in the negatrode of the other cell. This cell I'd opened, dried the electrodes, and poured some toluene in both. The conductivity of the cell was even worse (sigh!), but the self discharge dropped off to virtually nothing with the zincated electrode. Success at last!
   That would seem to mean that the thin zinc layer was intact, and also that the galvanized nails must have had impurities or gaps that were causing the remaining small but vexing self discharge. I think I should complain to the hardware store. It was a bit puzzling that evidently the abrasion hadn't scraped off the thin zinc layer, at least in this electrode. Had the rubbing just polished the zinc shiny in the first one, so I thought it was bare aluminum?
   I'd know for sure in a while - exposed aluminum disintegrates rapidly in alkali. It held, at least for the month. In fact, that's how the 'zincate solution' strips the oxide layer off, making aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen - the main liquid in the solution is sodium hydroxide. The zinc in the solution (whatever its form - maybe it really is Zn(OH)4-- zincate ion, eg, sodium zincate?) must immediately cover the exposed Al metal with zinc, otherwise, the entire piece of aluminum would quickly dissolve. It seemed to last. So did the next one.

   Once I knew it was sodium hydroxide, I had the thought that maybe I could make my own. What was the zinc? From Wikipedia:


Solutions of sodium zincate may be prepared by dissolving zinc, zinc hydroxide, or zinc oxide in an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide. Simplified equations for these complex processes are:
ZnO + H2O + 2 NaOH → Na2Zn(OH)4
   This seems rather interesting, since zinc oxide is the discharged form of a negative zinc electrode, and zinc electrodes don't spontaneously dissolve - at least not in KOH. Perhaps NaOH can't be substituted for KOH in a cell with a zinc electrode, as it can be and sometimes is in Ni-Fe batteries. And then, why does it plate onto the aluminum and stay? Perhaps it's forming a zinc-aluminum alloy. Anyway, it seems just about too simple... mix up some NaOH and pour in ZnO. I already have those.

   Later I found fine aluminum grill and thin wire at Opus Art Supplies. I knew they had coarse grill, but it was off my radar screen as a place to find wire!

   Now, if I could find something that would put an impermeable layer of conductive carbon or something on metal for the positive sides so easily, things would start getting pretty simple!

Terminal Post

   A separate consideration, for both electrodes, is the shape of the terminal post. With the present technique, the electrode is compacted in advance with no post, then a hole is dug out with a drill bit, and then the post is forced in. With straight sides, only the bottom tip of the post is forcing material to the side. The rest just slides in to the hole already dug, and doesn't press against it to make good contact. A post slightly tapered over the whole bottom 50mm that goes into the electrode would be ideal, pushing the material out a bit all along the length to keep it compressed against the post.
 Starting with a fat piece of aluminum, the simplest thing to do might be to grind, file or sand it down into a tapered shape (sand = with stationary belt sander). Then zincate it.

   For the positrode... I'm not quite sure. Obviously there must be ways.

   The other option is to go back to the plunger with the hole in the middle and compact with the post in place. Hmm... that might be preferable.


Terminal posts
6 positives: graphited wax, grafpoxy sucked into a plastic drinking straw (hollow),
two grafpoxy/straw (sanded, one to a taper), one made wrapped in a yellow paper cone (sanded),
and one painted onto a tapered plastic handle.
Negatives: 2 of heavily incated aluminum, one with zincated aluminum screen wrapped around.
These posts were left in the zincate far too long, and didn't seem the least bit immune to KOH.

Perforated, Zincated Aluminum Pockets?...

Al rod, Perf. Al sheet, single wrap of Al expanded mesh (1/4" x 1/2"),
3 layers of zincated mesh with zincated Al leed wire (1/2" x 1/2").
The original mesh is seen behind. None of these have been tried so far.
   But there was another option: If aluminum can be 'zincated', why not put a zincated aluminum grill around inside the whole shell of the electrode, or even make the whole pocket of perforated, zincated aluminum sheet instead of plastic? That would put a whole lot more metal closely adjacent to a whole lot more electrode substance. Aye, there was current capacity! Surely it was the way to go.

   The sewing machine punched through thin aluminum - not the least bit easily or elegantly - and I made a square aluminum pocket. It was half the weight of the plastic, and being thin with a thin bottom, would hold a couple more grams of electrode - great for energy density. However, I couldn't get the corner seam closed. I could burn a hole right through with the tack welder, but it wouldn't stick together.

   The next day, the 17th, I bought some fairly fine expanded aluminum mesh and tried a few things. Finally, it seemed best to wrap about three layers around the square steel rod , cut the corners, and fold the ends, the lower end to form a bottom, and the upper end simply folded over outwards.
   I 'zincated' it before bending it, and after with a zincated aluminum wire (#14 AWG - from the same art supply store) tucked in under the outer layer. Instead of a PVC basket, it had an aluminum one. It weighed about 4 grams. The plastic plus a fat aluminum terminal post weighed about 9 grams. That bode well for energy density as well as for higher current drive.

...or Zincated Aluminum Spiral wrapped Grills? -- A New Way To Make Electrodes

   Then it occurred to me that  if I was winding up 2 or 3 layers of mesh, why didn't I just roll electrode paste as 'pie crust' onto the mesh, and then roll it all up into a spiral, sort of like a dry cell but just one lone solid electrode in it? An extra layer or two of mesh continued around the outside would enclose it as well as the square pocket. That way, the mesh would be distributed throughout, and none of the substance would be more than a couple of millimeters from some part of it. That should give the best current capacity, and it would be much easier to do than the dry cell with two electrodes wrapped into one coil. AFAIK, it would in fact be a new way to construct electrodes. It could hardly be called a pocket electrode, but the 'stand alone electrode' effect was the same.

   I cut out a 70 x 100mm piece, and rolled a 100mm aluminum leed wire into it, then zincated them. 25 grams of MnO2/graphite/Sb2S3 mix plus Sunlight and Diesel Kleen were applied to the screen and flattened with a rolling pin. (well... with a small diameter glass bottle.) Readings on the tamped mix were around 100 ohms. 5 grams flaked off during the rolling up, leaving about 20 in the electrode, same as in the pockets. There was no extra screen left to wrap around the outside. I wrapped a separator paper around it, put some small cable ties around it to hold it together, and pushed it into a case. It was a lumpy ellipse. Maybe better that way. It only weighed about 25g total - good for energy density even for a factory cell. In fact, the dry electrode itself probably had (theoretically) well over 600 WH/Kg. But it's the energetic side, and there's still the case and water to account for as well.
   The next day, the 18th, I figured the Diesel Kleen had evaporated and I took the previous positrode to make a cell. It seemed much better. When the charge was removed, the voltage went down a bit and quickly stopped moving, instead of gradually dropping for some time. With only a little charging it would put 70 mA into 10 ohms, and keep on doing it instead of gradually dropping off over a few minutes. However, it didn't improve a lot with charging.

   The terminal post corroded off the plus side during charging (so much for the wax sealing the crack!) and I stuffed another, thinner, one in. It definitely worked worse. So I pulled that one out, and put in the best fatter one. This time there was a significant improvement.
   A load test after a few more hours charging seemed to show that it wasn't a lot better than other recent cells, and most of the voltage drop was from the negatrode despite expectations. It's not getting much 'bang for the buck' either from the size of the electrodes or from the square centimeters of interface area.

   And here I thought the neg was good to go! I'm still not sure the graphite in it doesn't cause a bit of self discharge. I'll try the next one without graphite. Zincating the finished electrode for a very short time instead of 30 minutes might deposit about the right amount of conductive zinc without having it coat everything. Anyway, more light aluminum screen and less (or no) graphite would further up the amp-hours and energy density.
   Still, the performance didn't inspire confidence. Obviously a larger number of substantially smaller diameter winds would put more substance closer to the positrode with more interface area, but then you're doing a lot of work to make each small electrode. The traditional flat screen like so many other cells use - in a plastic pocket enclosure - might be the best way to go after all.




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