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Thread: Nickle Iron Cells

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  1. #1

    Nickle Iron Cells

    Hello Group,
    I am starting a new thread here for Nickle Iron cells. I have wondered about these for several years and I finally purchased some. These are also known as "Edison Cells" because Thomas Edison filed and held the patent on them. You can find out more about those original Edison cells on the internet but I have the new version of them made in china. Edison's company produced them from late 1890's all the way until the early 70's when the company was bought up by Excide batteries. Excide shelved this technology and for many years you could only buy old stock but thankfully they are starting to make a come back.

    I am attaching a manual from 1925 on the original cells, really neat document.

    https://1drv.ms/f/s!AmzmftzD-V0mhnpFNafKaCfPlJp1

    I have put together a 12v pack which is constructed with 10 cells each 10AH in series. These are very small for this type of battery but I wanted the small ones so I could play with them. I am seriously considering going real big with these Nickle Iron cells. I have 50 of these baby cells to play with now though.

    Here is a picture of just one cell and a hydrometer next to it. That is used for measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte which is KOH. The KOH is basically a dry flakey substance and you mix it into distilled water to a gravity of about 1.2.

    IronCore10AH.jpg

    I am still breaking in the first set but I will show a charge and discharge on them soon.

  2. #2
    Senior Member James McDonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobZilla View Post
    Hello Group,
    I am starting a new thread here for Nickle Iron cells. I have wondered about these for several years and I finally purchased some. These are also known as "Edison Cells" because Thomas Edison filed and held the patent on them. You can find out more about those original Edison cells on the internet but I have the new version of them made in china. Edison's company produced them from late 1890's all the way until the early 70's when the company was bought up by Excide batteries. Excide shelved this technology and for many years you could only buy old stock but thankfully they are starting to make a come back.

    I am attaching a manual from 1925 on the original cells, really neat document.

    https://1drv.ms/f/s!AmzmftzD-V0mhnpFNafKaCfPlJp1

    I have put together a 12v pack which is constructed with 10 cells each 10AH in series. These are very small for this type of battery but I wanted the small ones so I could play with them. I am seriously considering going real big with these Nickle Iron cells. I have 50 of these baby cells to play with now though.

    Here is a picture of just one cell and a hydrometer next to it. That is used for measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte which is KOH. The KOH is basically a dry flakey substance and you mix it into distilled water to a gravity of about 1.2.



    I am still breaking in the first set but I will show a charge and discharge on them soon.
    Hi BobZilla --

    Can you tell us where you purchased your Nickel Iron Cells?
    Are they shipped with fluid in them or do you make your own solution
    from provided instructions? I saw one company in the USA selling them
    but they only sell in 100 Ah setups for $970.00 plus shipping.

    Thanks for the information.

    -- James

  3. #3
    Senior Member John_Koorn's Avatar
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    Hi Bob, thanks for starting this thread. I have a few cells that I bought from an old second hand store a few years back. I think they were used by the Japanese in WWII. I do remember downloading that same document a while back too

    Will upload some some photos when I get a chance.

    John K.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by John_Koorn View Post
    Hi Bob, thanks for starting this thread. I have a few cells that I bought from an old second hand store a few years back. I think they were used by the Japanese in WWII. I do remember downloading that same document a while back too

    Will upload some some photos when I get a chance.

    John K.
    John,
    I found this webpage awhile back when I was researching. This write-up may be of particular interest to you since you have the originals. It is a great read for anyone actually but these guys did a restoration job on a bunch of them and they worked.

    Link:
    https://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/...ron-batteries/


    James,
    I purchased them from an Australian company IronCore Batteries, I will link below. If you are like me you sound like you considered purchasing NiFe before but could only find the large ones. There are only two or three distributors in the USA that I have found and none of them sell smaller cells. Ironcore does have a listing on ebay and that may be the way to go if you only want 10 cells. I wanted more so I contacted them and arranged a purchase of 50 cells. I delt with David over there and he is a really nice guy.

    http://www.ironcorebatteries.com.au/

    The electrolyte is a dry flake that you mix yourself, not a liquid and you have to mix it correctly. Also be careful mixing this stuff because it does have a thermal reaction so you cannot just dump a measured amount in and stir it up.

    I actually wound up paying about double per AH than you can get the larger cells for but I knew that going into it. I wanted smaller cells that I could move around but most importantly I wanted more than 10 cells so that I could run up series strings for higher voltage to play with on my various machines. We will get into that later but if you have a battery that cannot produce much current because it is to small you can run series configurations of higher voltage and run a machine on much less current. I don't recommend this approach for just anyone but if you know your machine well enough you can get your current way down and use small cells. Look at what Joseph Newman was doing for example, he ran on tiny 9v batteries in series, high voltage but low current. Anyway I am getting side tracked here but the point is that I paid more for less so that I could have the flexibility in voltage.

    Everyone needs to understand that Nickle Iron cells are not terribly energy dense. My 10AH 12v pack I constructed is rather large for it only being a 10AH battery. Being that it is only 10AH I only expect to pull between .5 to maybe 1A off of it at 12v. These batteries are best for a stationary installation such as an off-grid cabin or something like that, not for the back of an RV because of space and venting.

  5. #5
    Senior Member John_Koorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobZilla View Post
    John,
    I found this webpage awhile back when I was researching. This write-up may be of particular interest to you since you have the originals. It is a great read for anyone actually but these guys did a restoration job on a bunch of them and they worked.

    Link:
    https://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/...ron-batteries/


    James,
    I purchased them from an Australian company IronCore Batteries, I will link below. If you are like me you sound like you considered purchasing NiFe before but could only find the large ones. There are only two or three distributors in the USA that I have found and none of them sell smaller cells. Ironcore does have a listing on ebay and that may be the way to go if you only want 10 cells. I wanted more so I contacted them and arranged a purchase of 50 cells. I delt with David over there and he is a really nice guy.

    http://www.ironcorebatteries.com.au/

    The electrolyte is a dry flake that you mix yourself, not a liquid and you have to mix it correctly. Also be careful mixing this stuff because it does have a thermal reaction so you cannot just dump a measured amount in and stir it up.

    I actually wound up paying about double per AH than you can get the larger cells for but I knew that going into it. I wanted smaller cells that I could move around but most importantly I wanted more than 10 cells so that I could run up series strings for higher voltage to play with on my various machines. We will get into that later but if you have a battery that cannot produce much current because it is to small you can run series configurations of higher voltage and run a machine on much less current. I don't recommend this approach for just anyone but if you know your machine well enough you can get your current way down and use small cells. Look at what Joseph Newman was doing for example, he ran on tiny 9v batteries in series, high voltage but low current. Anyway I am getting side tracked here but the point is that I paid more for less so that I could have the flexibility in voltage.

    Everyone needs to understand that Nickle Iron cells are not terribly energy dense. My 10AH 12v pack I constructed is rather large for it only being a 10AH battery. Being that it is only 10AH I only expect to pull between .5 to maybe 1A off of it at 12v. These batteries are best for a stationary installation such as an off-grid cabin or something like that, not for the back of an RV because of space and venting.
    Thanks Bob. I do recall reading that article a few years back as well. Very interesting.

    I contacted Iron Core Batteries (they are only about a 2 hour drive from me) to see if they would sell me some electrolyte. I did attempt to make my own KOH (lye) some time ago, but that didn't work so well. David there asked if I could measure how much I needed and he would be happy to send me some.

    John K.

  6. #6
    Senior Member John_Koorn's Avatar
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    Edison Battery Cells


    Here's few photos of the Edison cells I bought second hand a few years ago. I'm thinking that they may have been from the Korean War and perhaps used as a battery for radio communications, just a guess.

    Each cell takes approximately 45mL of electrolyte. Currently the voltages range from 0.4v to 1.0v however I will be sourcing some new electrolyte from Iron Core shortly.

    John K.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by John_Koorn; 12-01-2016 at 08:56 PM.

  7. #7
    I'm jealous John ;-)

    Those look fantastic! I like the fill caps on yours especially, I doubt you noticed but mine have dinky little plastic screw in caps that do not vent. I have to crack them a bit when they are gassing and it's a very manual process.

    That is a great little setup you have there I am excited that we may be able to compare a bit. I also like that battery box, I need to make something like that for mine.

  8. #8
    Senior Member John_Koorn's Avatar
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    Thanks Bob. Yes, those fill caps are good. It doesn't show up very well in the pictures but they have little valves in them to allow them to off-gas without allowing any dust etc. in.

    I did did order some electrolyte today so hopefully that will turn up soon and I can start doing some charge and discharge tests on them.

    John K.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by John_Koorn View Post
    Thanks Bob. Yes, those fill caps are good. It doesn't show up very well in the pictures but they have little valves in them to allow them to off-gas without allowing any dust etc. in.

    I did did order some electrolyte today so hopefully that will turn up soon and I can start doing some charge and discharge tests on them.

    John K.

    Just to give you an idea of what you might expect here but who knows...

    Mine were very low capacity at first. They still are only about half capacity but they do increase with each cycle. David had told me that they need several cycles to break in and give full capacity so I am not worried at this point but I mention it so that you will not be to thrown off if yours do the same. It's like working with a very sulphated battery at first and then it gets better.

    I am charging in a non conventional way so that could be contributing too but I think mostly this is expected. I am charging on my small machine in common ground and a lot of current. I put my coils all back in parallel instead of the parallel series configuration I had before and I am drawing about 4A. I wanted to hit them hard at first because of the "boosting" charges that are talked about in the edison manuals.

  10. #10
    Senior Member John_Koorn's Avatar
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    Hi Bob, while I am waiting for the new electrolyte to arrive I thought I would do some charge/discharge cycles with the old electrolyte to see if I can get a baseline.
    For charging I'm using a variable output DC supply that is set for 1.85v and 1.5A, which is the recommended charge setting for one of these cells. I am going to do an overcharge first (12 hours instead of 7) on each cell, followed by a normal charge.
    For discharging, I will use my CBA so I can chart the results.

    This is picture shows the charge setup. Note that the charge current is slowly increasing, I guess as the internal resistance of the battery comes down. (Don't take any notice of the AH number, I haven't reset it for a while)



    Also to note is that the after a few minutes the battery voltage has stabilised and stayed constant at 1.814v. The Edison manual does state that the voltage should be between 1.8 and 1.9 so I guess this is OK.

    John K.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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