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Designing an Open Hardware Iron-Air Battery

Gareth Halfacree

An open-source iron-air battery prototype

When we need something, we like to build it - but the idea of building a battery from scratch had never entered our heads, until now. Reddit user 'bigattichouse' is seeking volunteers to build a community around his open-source rechargeable battery design, currently in the prototype stage.

Based on iron-air technology, the prototype battery is admittedly low capacity for its size: providing 1.28V open-circuit, the existing prototype - which is undergoing a conditioning process designed to increase its capacity - stores around 100mAh of energy, though based on previous experiments its creator expects it to settle at between 500mAh and 1,00mAh post-conditioning.

While that may not seem like much given the extremely high capacity of modern lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries of a similar size, bigattichouse's battery is based on an iron-air reaction - meaning it avoids the expensive and in untrained hands dangerous chemicals typically required to build rechargeable batteries. Costing no more than £5 in materials, the prototype is manufactured using activated iron, carbon, graphite, urea, aluminium, manganese dioxide, and hydrochloric or sulfuric acid - though, obviously, the acids still need to be handled with care.

The goal of bigattichouse's experiments is to create a community around improving the design, eventually creating a gold-standard open hardware battery which can be produced easily in a low-technology environment and hold a useful charge. Ultimately, bigattichouse is aiming for a 12V cell costing less than £15 in materials.

More information on the manufacturing process is available in this Imgur gallery.

I recently created my first viable prototype (1.28v OCV) of an iron-air battery, and I would really like to try and build an open-source community of people to refine the idea and make it better. My goal is price, safety, recycleability, ease of construction, and durability (deep discharges ok, and easy to replace) - ignoring size and avoiding Flourine-based electrolytes.

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