Turquoise Energy Ltd. News #2^7 (= #128)
covering January 2019 (Posted February 1st 2019)
Lawnhill BC Canada
by Craig Carmichael

www.TurquoiseEnergy.com = www.ElectricCaik.com = www.ElectricHubcap.com = www.ElectricWeel.com

Month In Brief (Project Summaries etc.)
 - Battery Project - When EV's were "Killed" - Carmichael Mill - Lumber Cutting - Ground Effect Vehicle Improvement? - Expanding my Solar Power System - NO Tidal Power project

In Passing (Miscellaneous topics, editorial comments & opinionated rants)
  - World's Most Costly Garbage Pickup Service? - Sardine Tins and Bathtub Designs - Clinton & the "Deep State" - Why They REALLY DON'T Want the US-Mexico Border Wall - Yellowstone Volcano: ready, set, ...? - Coming Collapse: Contempt & Disdain - Cryptocurrency Exchange Failure? - ESD (Eccentric Silliness Dept.)

- Project Reports -
Electric Transport - Electric Hubcap Motor Systems
* Ground Effect Vehicle - New wing profile & restart of design - Trying out RC components

Other "Green" Electric Equipment Projects
* Carmichael Mill ("Bandsaw Alaska Mill")
* Mining Beach Sand?

Electricity Generation
* Expanding My Solar Power System - grid ties - 36 volt DC LED lights - Solar Hot Water? - Batery consreving controls? - Putting up some of the New Solar PV Panels
* Magnetic Flipping HE Ray Energy?
* Woodstove Thermoelectric Generators (TEGs) (Didn't get very far...)

Electricity Storage - Turquoise Battery Project (Mn-Zn, Ni-Zn or Pb-Zn in Oxalate Methyl Hydroxide electrolyte)
* Experiments mostly with Mn-Zn... - Attempts by Others to use Zinc - Oxalate Electrolyte or Not? - Lead-Zinc in Oxalate (with commercial lead oxide electrode plates) Again (Jan 9th - Aborted) - Totally Common Ingredients!?! New Mn-Zn Cell With Very Weak Potassium Hydroxide - Was it the Water? - Thicker KOH Electrolyte: Finding Solutions - Sodium Oxalate - Alcohol: Methyl Hydroxide - Proton Membranes

January in Brief

New Chemie Batteries

   I spent a lot of time on battery experiments and research this month. Too much! It took time away from everything else. I've always just wanted some simple to make, lower cost, long life batteries. Of course, so does everybody else and no such "ideal" batteries have appeared in over two centuries of battery research. There are a lot of elusive "almosts" and short cycle life solutions. After all this time and with all the ideas I've had, nothing I've done has actually made any that have been practical.
   This month new ideas were suddenly springing up left and right, and my only sure conclusions are that what I've tried so far hasn't worked out... and that in some ways I'm still out of my depth. I keep finding out about things that that have been causing me unknown problems that others already know. Oxalate electrolyte didn't seem to work like I had confidently expected it would. It all got rather discouraging.
Copper dendrites shorting out the cell across the separator grille, under the microscope
   One especially bright spot was a "new" hydroxide electrolyte I somehow found but glossed over and forgot a decade ago. Hydroxides seem to be what really work best and don't dissolve electrode substances - except especially zinc, which gives the best energy and conductivity but gradually dissolves during discharge at the pH 14 of the hydroxide electrolytes. But the organic substance methyl hydroxide, CH3OH - AKA methanol, AKA wood alcohol, AKA methyl hydrate, AKA methyl alcohol (I think all the names confused me) - is a soluble hydroxide that is (evidently) mildly acidic instead of pH 14. By mixing that with a small amount of pH 14 hydroxide, one should, presumably, be able to get a hydroxide electrolyte of any desired pH. I ordered some from Westlab.com. Then I realized I already had some, hardware store variety, that (IIRC) my mother gave me about 40 years ago and I didn't know what to use it for. On my first try I didn't use enough KOH and it was apparently too acidic. On recharging the electrodes shorted out with both copper and zinc dendrites. These were clearly visible under my new microscope, a valuable piece of equipment I should have bought long ago.

   Another potential improvement was nafion ion selective membrane. This lets hydrogen ions - protons - pass through but not much else. It might be used to prevent dissolved ions from passing from one electrode to the other, and would potentially allow having one electrolyte for the plus electrode and another for the minus. Costly as it is, I ordered a piece of that, too. Then I found that attaching it so nothing gets around the edges has its own set of challenges, usually involving barium metasilicate.

When EV's were "Killed" (not for the first time)

   Many will recall the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, about the GM EV-1 produced in the late 1990s, which was an exciting electric car with the nickel-metal hydride flooded batteries that were such a huge advance over lead-acids. (It was some years before more recent cars with lithium batteries equalled its driving range capacity.)
   At the same time other car companies made some very nice electric vehicles, most of which were likewise only leased and not sold, and were crushed when the greedy got control over the California government and had the mandates for clean cars repealed. One exception was the Toyota RAV-4 EV. Some of those were sold. Of course, once Chevron was given control of the batteries, it became impossible to get replacements. But many of the flooded NiMH batteries still work passably well, or did until fairly recently and some may just need the electrolyte replaced.
   A friend in Victoria BC, Eric, got together with someone else and they have now brought up from California and put together two revamped RAV-4 EVs from about 1996 to 2001 with batteries from three, re-outfitting them to plug into today's charging stations.
   Here is Eric's beautiful "new" 2001 RAV-4 EV, always kept in a garage in California. It had a remaining range of just 5 miles, but is being outfitted with refurbished NiMH cells to bring it back to 100(?) miles.

...Not bad for 500$US! (Well... plus substantially more than that for shipping.)

In the back is the original charger.

Carmichael Mill - Lumber Cutting

   The handheld bandmill is basically finished and continues to perform well. I uncovered - and fixed on the lathe - a minor problem with the guide wheels being a little too wide, which caused them to gradually pinch the "set" off of the inner teeth and cause "cupped" and wavy cutting.
   The biggest news for me was that I finished milling up the big cants of spruce that were blocking my driveway, except one that I'm saving. After some clean-up I drove the Leaf through the previously blocked space for the first time since summer 2017. When the last cant is gone (or shoved off farther to the side after some more clean-up of branch piles that were formerly trapped underneath the cants of wood), I'll have back the whole circle driveway that came with the house before I had the trees cut down! Yay!

   But I've still only cut up half of the spruce - the rest just isn't blocking the driveway.

Ground Effect Vehicle Improvement?

   I watched a video of a model ground effect craft. It was very short, of a primitive model launched across the floor by a rubber band, but it got my attention. Like some others it was "catamaran" in form, but the wing profile seemed unusual. (The closest thing I've seen to this profile - and not very close - was something called the "Flugboat" which can also be found on youtube.) The maker explained to me that the unusual shape shifted the wingtop "vacuum" lift toward the rear of the wing, while the ground effect "compression" lift underneath was greatest at the front. Since only the ground effect lift decreases with altitude, this profile gives the longitudinal "level flight" stability for the craft to find its optimum altitude and attitude based on the speed and weight, without the lower lift and high attack angles of the Bixel flat wing that required extra high takeoff speeds. It *might* not even need a controlled elevator. The bottom is actually pretty flat. It's the top shape that is novel.
   It seems like a brilliant idea. He also had a video of an earlier radio controlled model ground effect craft with a "regular" wing design. He doubtless found it unsatisfactory and that led him to come up with this new wing profile. (Below: Front is at the left.) One can visualize that, if it wasn't in ground effect range, the back of the wing would want to lift and aim it down.


   Come to think of it, this would be a rather similar effect to the "wingfish" with its "inverted delta" wing shape and a separate elevator high up. But this form allows the catamaran design with better lift-to-drag potential owing to the hulls virtually eliminating wing & elevator tip vortices. The catamaran shape will surely also be much easier to dock at a wharf than something with a fragile wing sticking out both sides.

   With this one last item seemingly solved in a more satisfactory way than I had found earlier, I started working on the design of the model again. And I got out the radio control components and tried them out for the first time. Except for the ducted fan propeller rubbing a bit on the duct housing (the motor and the fan weren't made to mount together) and unsatisfactory "backward" control of the throttle, it seemed to work well.

Expanding my Solar Power System

   After initially installing the "off-grid" power system in the December power outage, I gave it some more thought this month, and did a bit more on it. Two panels seemed to be enough for that as I was using it - mostly just for one light - and I moved two of the panels back onto one of the grid tie inverters.

   I want to make the 36-40 volt house wiring system. I ordered various LED lights and LED emitters to make 36 volt lights with - mostly 12 volt emitters in sets of three. I ordered several varieties of 12 volt "cob" lights, a set of three 30 x 60 cm flat panels, and some screw-in "bulbs" that are supposed to work from 12 to 72 VDC instead of 120 VAC. They're all on their way on the slow boat from China.

   I gave some thought to a kitchen solar or solar assisted water heating system (it takes much too long to get hot water in my kitchen), and controls to run things when the sun is out but shut off if draining battery power, or if the batteries are getting low.

   On the 29th and 30th I put up and ran wires to two of the new 305 watt panels that are supposed to be better in low light. I hooked them to the other grid-tie inverter. Performance in the clouds, mist and drizzle was been poor, but on February first the sun made an appearance and at one point the two panels ("610 watts") were giving about 270 watts - about all one might expect from the low angle of the winter sun. They will improve bit by bit until they're somewhere near their full rated power in the summer.

   Doubtless it wouldn't hurt to put up two more.

(The white wall paint is so the garden vegetables get some light reflected from the north. When it was dark brown they all leaned away from the house. The wire fence is to keep the deer out of the garden.)

   One place that is going solar in a big way is Puerto Rico. After hurricane Maria power was out for ages. It's still only been restored in some areas. A whole island lost its undersea power cable and it's never been reconnected. People died. Panels and huge battery storage units have proliferated. The island uses far less petroleum for power now and will never be wholly without power again. But Puerto Rico gets a lot more sun year round than Haida Gwaii does in the winter months when power is most needed. So far what would work best here is tidal power, with the continual flows churning in and out of long Masset channel between the ocean and the shallow inland sea.

NO Tidal Power Project

   Someone offered to administer a tidal power project if I wanted to do it - to make the phone calls to look for funding and find supporters, workers, co-ordinate with BC Hydro, etc. I thought I had great floating power vessel designs and a great plan to do everything pretty much all from shore at low tide, by giving the vessel a "smart" rudder to position itself into the strongest current (and return to shore when necessary at high tide for maintenance access at low tide), but having started working on the ground effect vehicle, somewhere during the month I decided it was just too much for me to tackle.
   Then for a short time I thought maybe to do just a small 'pilot' or 'private power' project that I could handle myself without so much outside help, probably to deploy at the mouth of the Tlell river where there was easiest access to a good flow. I went to Coastal Propane, but I hadn't realized their old (free) 80 gallon tanks were still too big to fit into the car. I could have come back another time with the trailer, but I finally decided I had better drop tidal power entirely. It's not that it wouldn't be a great project (and the small one could put my fine "Improved Piggott" generator to the test), but I'm already flitting from project to project and getting only bits done on each one. It needs some other champion to move it forward.

FloTec (formerly Scot Renewables) latest 2 MW tidal flow power design.
Their units are helping to power the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland.
In a few years their units may be for sale globally. In the meantime, why
can we not make our own - and even play a leading part in a new industry?

   And as usual, I've voiced some opinionated opinions on various miscellaneous topics, below.

In Passing
(Miscellaneous topics, editorial comments & opinionated rants)

World's Most Costly Garbage Pickup Service?

   I got a bill in the mail. It was for garbage pickup. I conserve. I reuse. I recycle. I burn. What's left goes into the garbage can along with crap I've picked up off the beach. I take the can out to the road for Thursday pick-up about once every six weeks or so. I mentioned that to the garbage man, Paul, in a cafe. He thought for a moment and said "If that." So that's maybe 7 or 8 cans per year. I would happily take them to the dump myself on my way by when I need to. The bill was for 288$. That's 41$ or 36$ per can - or often half a can. Yet there it is: a flat rate bill equal to those of careless families of five who thoughtlessly toss everything they don't want into the street garbage without sorting it or worrying that someone else has to deal with their mess, and who complain that they should be permitted more cans each week.

   Why should I be subsidizing the wanton carelessness and indifference of others? Is that equitable? For the service I get out of it, I think it's highway robbery. I could buy two or three garbage cans, per pickup, for that sort of price! It shows a need for several things:

1. A citizens' social sustainability design team to study the issue and make recommendations to government. I suspect the following recommendations will likely be forthcoming:

2. Education of the public about recycling, composting and minimizing trash.
3. Options for a low basic rate with pay-per-can for anything more than very minimal usage. (Others may think of other options, eg, for absentee owners, who are presently dinged the same high rate for no pickups at all!)
4. Enforcement of anti-dumping laws. (I can already hear "But people will just dump their garbage anywhere if they have to pay per can." as an excuse to not change it.) IF there are offenders, make it too hazardous for them to dump their trash 'anywhere'. Video cameras can be set up where such offenses seem to be occurring. Likelihood of being caught is always the best deterrent. (A decade or two ago, car thefts were rampant in BC. Then the police set up "bait cars". After catching a mere handful of car thieves in a few weeks, the whole epidemic came to a halt. Either it was all being done by just those few individuals [probably], or else the arrests scared everyone else off.)

   My next door neighbors Stan and Louise spend half the year in Lac la Hache. They still have to pay the whole 288$ here. And Stan told me that in Lac la Hache, there is no fee at all, nor pickup. They take their garbage to the refuse transfer station, and there is a "swap table" there where one can pick up anything that looks useful that others have discarded. (He said Louise sometimes came back with more than she took!)

   What a difference! With very little income and so often spending so much on R & D materials, suddenly I have to come up with another 288$, too, but in Lac la Hache I'd have had no problem.

Bathtub Designs

   My first question is: Who are all the sadists that create all the bathtubs
with no slope to the back end so you can relax in it? The other question is its companion: Who are all the masochists who buy and install these tubs? Once a tub is purchased and installed one is stuck with the choice for years or maybe even a lifetime. (My previous house in Victoria BC still had the antique cast iron bathtub it came with when I left. That's more than one lifetime! I soon moved it over to a corner and tiled it in for showers like any newer bathtub.)

   My best guess on the first question is that less thought goes into a bathtub's design than a tin can's. All those old cast iron bathtubs from the 1800s at least have sloping backs. The trouble with them is the thick cast metal is a big heatsink and if you lean back, your back gets cold even while the water is hot. And of course all the water cools more quickly. My best guess on the second question is that contractors build the majority of houses, and they want nothing but the cheapest - er, I mean the finest - to go into the houses they are building not to live in but to sell, and again little thought is put into the tub purchase decision. Or perhaps the contractor may even be afraid to put in a tub that might attract notice.
   But even examining the cheapness aspect, it is surely easier to punch out a formed sheet metal bathtub with sloping sides and ends than straight. We must then go back to the first supposition, that little thought goes into the design. This hypothesis is reinforced by them mostly having level, or even (as in my present tub) slightly convex surrounds. Any water that gets up onto the sill doesn't run back into the tub as it would if they were, more logically, slightly sloped inwards. On mine it actually pools up against the wall, and runs down the outside onto the floor. I finally had to caulk a substantial silicone ridge "dam" onto the shower curtain side of mine to keep water from running around the corner, behind the curtain, and soaking the floor and bath mat during every shower.
   But I somehow get red spots on my legs that seem to be best treated by immersion for a time in a hot bath, so I don't always just shower.

   Obviously I am never going to divert from my many other projects to design a bathtub. But I can imagine things I might do or try if I was in that business. Here are some hypothetical designs - and things I will look for if I ever have the occasion to be shopping for a new bathtub... which would probably be because I hate this "typical" one so much I would like to rip it out and replace it.

1. The aforementioned sloping head end for comfort. It probably doesn't need to be as sloped as the old cast iron tubs, but enough for leaning-back comfort.
2. Do they have to be so wide - 24-25" on the inside? It seems to me if they weren't such big, square tanks it could take a lot less water to have a bath.
  a. First, they might be wide in the middle but taper toward both ends, say to 18" at the feet and 20" at the head. Maybe even thinner. Anyway there should be some compromise somewhere between being too extreme for comfort and using so much water.
  b. Vertically, they might be more sloped on the sides as well as the ends. The 24" or more toward the top might be again say 18" at the bottom. I've seen a tub with contours - "armrests" - on the sides at about the high water level, which seemed rather nice.
3. The drain might be at the head end instead of the foot. (in a corner? or slightly recessed?) That would put the deeper part of the tub at the head end and it would take substantially less water to cover to the depth of the thighs. (If I turn around the "wrong" way in this tub, it's definitely deeper at my body end; shallower at the toes.)

   When the person takes up a higher percentage of the total volume of the tub, the water will rise up higher when they get in, so shrinking the volume makes for proportionally more water savings than than just the reduced cubic tub measurements considered alone would indicate.

4. Some compromises might be necessary to ensure a good standing area for showering.
5. Textured non-slip patches on the bottom for safety in the shower standing area. I've seen a tub with this nice feature in the bottom enamel. Just enough texture, still not a dirt accumulator. No ugly, dirt trap rubber mat needed.
6. A "lower entry" area on the outside for best access by the elderly and the physically handicapped.

   Let us be done with these 20th century square "sardine tin" bathtubs!

   Having written this on my old iMac with no WiFi and not even physically connected to the internet, mind reading Google put up an ad for "bathtub inserts" when I was watching youtube on another computer. Unfortunately this was from a contractor who installs them. I didn't think much of my chances of getting them up here to do mine for any sane sort of price (much less getting just what I wanted) and I didn't follow it up. But I will do a search and see just what "bathtub inserts" might be available.

Clinton & the "Deep State"

   I understand Hillary Clinton said this month "If I'm indicted there'll be civil war." Would an innocent person not have said something more like "Good! Let them indict me, I've done nothing wrong and it will at last clear my name."? So we can seemingly read into her statement, petulant defiance, a threat and an implicit admission of having willful and significant wrongdoing.

   I'm not much worried by the threat. If she had been indicted a year or more ago while her cronies - who were also Bush's and Obama's cronies - were still running the FBI, the CIA, the DOJ and the supreme court and when the public understood almost nothing of what sort of entrenched cabal they were being run by, this could have been a potential. Not now.

"The Most Highs rule in the affairs of men." - Bible.  Or as the Urantia Book puts it, They rule in the affairs of nations. We live in a time of a great moral and spiritual awakening, which, we trust, will not be permitted to be extinguished and delayed by a new dark age.

"Better a deplorable than a despicable." - me

   And how is it that so many people, known very bad actors of various ilks, walk freely, while president Trump's team members are indicted one after another? According to attorney Harvey Silverglate in his book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, there are so many laws that everyone over the age of 18 unknowingly commits around three felonies a day against laws they were unaware of such as "Dogs within 200 feet of a federal building must be on a leash six feet or shorter". Did you dig a hole in your back yard without complying with some EPA requirement? There are over 5 million felony laws - no one can count them all. No one over age 18 hasn't violated some of them. There is no requirement that you had to have willfully and knowingly violated a law with evil intent. "Aha! You forgot to fill in this box on your income tax form in 2012 - and we don't like you - so you're going to jail for income tax fraud." On the other hand, the "deep state" and connected actors, mostly all as criminal as each other, simply choose not to prosecute each other, even for murder, theft of billions, child sex trafficking and "crimes against humanity". Working for president Trump is in their minds the real crime - or at least the real threat - because he's trying to "drain their swamp".

Here's another Churchill quote: "If there were 20,000 laws, people would lose their respect for the law." Now it's more a case of "the law" has no respect for the people.

Why They REALLY DON'T Want the US-Mexico Border Wall

   Finally I think I understand. I watched a video, but it was the comments from a viewer underneath that finally told a story that fits the facts and explains the seemingly absurd obstinacy of the opposition. "Follow the money."

   The wall, a one-time expense, will cost 5 billion dollars (or whatever). Of course we'd all love to have that much money, but it's pocket change compared for example to what the US spends on "foreign aid" each year. What it's also pocket change compared to is 200 billion dollars of drug smuggling and who knows how many tens or hundreds of billions in human trafficking annually. With a border wall, all this illicit commerce will doubtless suddenly become far more difficult and will surely be drastically curtailed. Where will all the untraceable money come from for all the secret "black ops" and unregulated "deep state" activities that congress has no oversight or control over?

  from USAWatchdog.com (Greg Hunter)
   Those now opposing the wall gave it lip service in the past, saying one was needed and actually voting for it, but in fact doing nothing. Now that one is actually to be built, the same hypocrites are dead set against it. Truly they don't care beans about floods of illegal immigrants destabilizing the country and destroying its quality of life, and that these have to be supported by broke taxpayers or take their jobs, or about the immigrants themselves -- or much about any societal consequences to anyone. As long as their institutionalized cash machine continues to function and fund their dark budgets, they will let the country rot. The CIA truly is the Cocaine Importing Agency of the "deep state". The wall is surely a fundamental threat to the whole unelected, underground, shadow government whose tentacles wrap around the entire US political machine. So is withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the opium comes from.

Also: Along with a good majority of all in border states, lots of Latino citizens in the USA, whether their ancestors got there legally or illegally, support having the wall.
   With the organized migrant caravans stopped south of the US border at this time, it appears many Mexicans too, especially businesses, are getting fed up with their presence and their needs harming the economic life of their communities. Perhaps they too will want a wall on their southern border? It would be shorter.
   Today's caravans of thousands will soon become migrations of millions as conditions worsen. North America will lose its educated society, culture and civilization and become a chaotic mess if the process is permitted to proceed unabated.

    And if the USA would stop sabotaging South and Central American affairs, there would surely be fewer migrants whose lives and livelihoods have been trashed, who flee to try and find a decent life. The campaign to destroy Venezuela in order to get them to virtually hand over their oil fields to American interests for free is disgraceful. The deplorable situation in Venezuela largely came about through US sanctions and seizure of Venezuela's funds. (Funny we hear no sympathetic calls to donate to aid the poor, starving Venezuelans.) Instead 20 billion dollars of "aid" is to go to try to overthrow Maduro and install some dictatorship more to America's liking.

Yellowstone Volcano: ready, set, ...?

   Many have said, and have said for some lifetimes, that the chance of the giant Yellowstone volcano going off "in our lifetimes" is trivial. Given that last major eruption was 600,000 years ago, this seems like an awfully safe bet. But then its big eruptions have been at 600,000 year intervals. At the other end of the spectrum are those observing it like Mary Greeley (youtube), mostly since mid 2018, saying that it looks like it's going to go off very soon. The ground has been bulging up, geysers have become more active and there are new ones, and some have started spewing rocks as well as steam. And there have been some earthquake swarms - which were the last signs before Mount Saint Helens erupted in 1980. So much sulfur dioxide is coming out of the ground it's killing the forests around the caldera.

   If the Yellowstone "supervolcano", with a caldera 35 by 45 miles, did blow in a major eruption, it would dwarf Mt. St. Helens. The more excitable have said that the ash cloud would "destroy the United States", "make humans extinct", or at least cause the economy to crash. It is certain there would be vast disruptions to transport, deliveries and food production in North America - especially to air travel and possibly for two or three or four years. More locally lava and pyroclastic flows could devastate - bury - vast areas up to 100 or 125 miles away. I am very glad I don't live in that "kill" zone.

   We have little experience with such huge volcanoes. One geologist thought that it might go off with as little as two weeks notice.
   My question is, if people looking at the Yellowstone seismic monitors on line and reporting all these signs on youtube and the web, are we already looking at the warning signs? Geologists were expecting Mt. St. Helens to erupt, but even so it blew before they thought it would. How much warning will all those people really have before the real event, should it occur? If the signs only gradually get stronger and stronger over the months, will everyone get complacent and ignore it until it actually goes?

Coming Collapse: Contempt & Disdain

   People have been talking about a collapse for perhaps this whole decade - apparently prematurely. (Including me.) While things have been gradually deteriorating in many ways, nothing monumental has happened to most of us yet in the western world. Someone has stated that people have become not merely complacent, but actually dismissive and contemptuous of the idea of a major collapse. With all the predictions that have not - yet - come to pass, they feel that anything untoward that happens will surely be papered over by "the powers that be".
   But the economic news looks more and more bleak with polls suggesting that now over half (58%) of Americans and Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque with record levels of debt and no savings to speak of, up from 40% a year or two ago. Now even seniors are declaring bankruptcy. Plus, the sea level rises are just getting going with Antarctica now joining Greenland and starting to melt in earnest, and weather and geological calamities are growing ever stronger and more frequent, causing crop losses our heavily populated planet can hardly afford which in turn will lead to unaffordable food prices in the stores if not empty shelves. Diseases are on the rise and some antibiotic-resistant thing is likely to break out in our crowded cities and spread around the globe. Humongous die-offs of every sort of plant and animal species are being reported daily from all over the world - even Antarctic krill and ocean plankton are in peril.
   All of this ongoing devastation has become so common most of it doesn't make the news any more. Many things that are being done that are unsustainable are drawing toward their inevitable endings. Chris Martenson [PeakProsperity.com] says collapse is already happening, that it's a process, not an event.
   But there will probably be some climax to all this - or at least to some "straw that will break the camel's back" - (Yellowstone erupting might be a fitting climax?) and it's likely over another decade or two this will become a dramatically changed world with a lot fewer people in it. That population reduction will be highly beneficial to those who remain. Gradually the quality of life will become vastly better, and people will look back and say "what went wrong?" and turn their attention from physical sustainability projects to those that will ensure social sustainability for the future of the world.

   Those who are discerning the signs of the times will be more ready in many ways, mentally and spiritually as well as physically, than "couch potatoes" who dismiss it all as "fear porn" and do nothing. Physically, many have said it's just good insurance to be prepared with a food supply, some "redoubt" prepared to go to outside of cities in case (for example) you hear of a serious disease spreading in yours, enough gas always on hand to get there, and hard cash or real silver in hand for if the banks are off-line or fiat paper notes aren't being accepted any more. And it's still true as some have said, that it's better to be prepared years too early than a day too late. Mentally and spiritually, are we prepared to contribute, to help ourselves and others when times of great need - and great opportunities for service - arise? We are living in, surely, the most unique period the world's history will ever record.

Cryptocurrency Exchange Failure?

   They say not to leave your cryptocurrency on an exchange because they get hacked. It's much safer in your own wallet. Oops. With the poor internet service around here I got complacent. I had left some etherium on the QuadrigaCX.com exchange for quite some time. I thought occasionally about withdrawing it to my wallet. But I was having trouble with the wallet, and I kept putting it off. One day I went onto QuadrigaCX and transferred the majority to my wallet - or at least I hope I did. (Once I get into my wallet I'll be sure. I seem to have done something to the password and will probably need to reset everything to get back in.)
   The price of etheriums being way down from where I bought them, I thought I would "double down" and get some more. Options for transferring funds from a bank to this exchange had become quite limited. Perhaps I should have been suspicious.
   I got a "prepaid credit card" at the post office. When I went back to the exchange the next day it said "site down for maintenance". It still said that 3 days later, so finally I checked around. It turned out that the exchange was mostly a one-man show, and the owner had died unexpectedly in December. Everyone had been unable to withdraw $money from it since then. His wife doesn't seem to have any idea how to run it. I may (I pray) have got my etheriums out just in time - not a day to spare - and the remainder I left on the exchange in case I wanted to sell some may well be lost. Until then it was a great exchange. All quite distressing.
   Assets that are nothing but numbers on a computer screen at a bank can be lost, too. Paypal is a huge outfit, and it doesn't lend your money out, so it's probably about the safest place to have an account. But QuadrigaCX where I've dealt for several years going down without warning (as far as I knew) certainly took me by surprise.

(Eccentric Silliness Department)

    Here's a quote I should have had for the article on the BC Referendum last month, which appeared to suffer from the same contempt and disdain as the subject of collapse: The first attempt to change things was in 2008 (which "failed" with 59% approval but a mark of 60% required), and since then people just didn't want to think about it again, good or bad. The quote:

   "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston S. Churchill


WARNING: Really bad puns ahead


Q: Ding-dong. When does the SHTF?

A: When the bell over the fan has dung.


"Have you heard of lamas?"

"Neigh, but I have herd of horses.
"And flock of flying sheep." (Methinks he's telling yarns!)

Sheep of a fleece may flock in peace.


Long drives on vacation with my parents and my two brothers, ca. 1968-71:

Dad: "Oh, here's a White Spot. I guess that'll do."

Somehow it never occurred to me back then that there actually were no restaurants called "Black Spot" or "Brown Spot".

But I can be pretty dense. Once there were several people were at a table. In introductions one guy said he ran a filling station and everybody but me immediately understood he was a dentist.

   "in depth reports" for each project are below. I hope they may be useful to anyone who wants to get into a similar project, to glean ideas for how something might be done, as well as things that might have been tried or thought of... and even of how not to do something - why it didn't work or proved impractical. Sometimes they set out inventive thoughts almost as they occur - and are the actual organization and elaboration in writing of those thoughts. They are thus partly a diary and are not extensively proof-read for literary perfection and consistency before publication. I hope they add to the body of wisdom for other researchers and developers to help them find more productive paths and avoid potential pitfalls.

Electric Transport

Ground Effect Vehicle

   Youtube put up another ground effect craft video suggestion. It was just a short 1.5 minute video of a square model launched by rubber band across a floor, but it got my attention. The wing profile was different than any other I'd seen. The model seemed more stable than others, including with different weights placed on the nose. (lighter, right; heavier, left below) I ended up in e-mail contact with the maker, John Ryland of RylandResearch.co.uk . He seemed to also have some interesting robotics projects including a fire-fighting robot.

   The wing was designed with the curve on the top side more evenly distributed front to rear, in fact with more curve toward the rear instead of the front, so that the center of the vacuum lift on the top was more toward the rear of the wing instead of concentrated toward the front as in most aircraft wings. It almost looked like it had "flaps" partly extended. This lift is independent of ground effect. He said the relatively more flat underside kept the ground effect compression lift underneath, which decreases with altitude, more toward the front. Thus if the nose rose up, the front lost [ground effect] lift while the rear maintained its [suction] lift, which would tend to lower the nose. This should work to keep the vehicle in more stable, level ground effect flight.

   I had been told or had heard that the Bixel flat or symmetrical wing, while more stable, needed too high of take-off speeds, and too high an angle of attack while flying. It seemed to me this new wing profile might solve or at least ameliorate the problems, providing stability and more lift at lower speeds.

   In the whole aerodynamic design, the wing profile was the remaining detail I had been rather uncertain about, and hadn't figured out a solution for that I was confident would be satisfactory. It seemed like a good time to draw up the design for the RC model, e-mail it to John for comments, and if it seemed good to both of us, to build the model.

   John mentioned that for water take-off it would need a "step" in the hull. Steps are commonly used in "V" planing hull shapes to effectively reduce the length of the hull in contact with the water and hence the drag. They are ubiquitous on water takeoff aircraft. But should I use them with the narrow but flat bottom hulls I had in mind? I had thought not, but now I decided that I should: whether flat or "V" bottoms, a step would still reduce waterline length and hence the drag once planing at higher speeds for takeoff. I put a 3" step in the design, 6 feet from the front out of the planned 16 feet overall length. (Scale to 1/4 size for the model.) Hopefully 3" rise wasn't going to make much difference to the "hovercraft box" effect -- if that was needed at all. Also I put the back of the wing another few inches above the bottoms of the hulls - and a little ahead of the backs. Better, I hoped, that the wing didn't cause drag in the water in small waves. Also if the elevator was pointed down, it would cover that space.

   I think I'll start by hoping my earlier hovercraft effect idea with flaps at the front of the wing to make a complete "hovercraft box" underneath for take-off at low speed isn't necessary. And why was I actually concerned about that, anyway? First, there was the reputed high speed needed for take-off of the Bixel flat wing, ...and almost subconsciously, it was that I wanted to use the electric motor from the Swift in the full-size craft. For anything else, for the model or with a gasoline engine on the manned vehicle, I could just up the motor or engine size until it had sufficient power. I should just design for a typical(?) takeoff without thought of the electric motor, and then if it had enough power, great - otherwise forget it and just do gasoline. Gasoline power would give it much greater travel range anyway (in case I ever actually got up the nerve to try flying 170 Km to Prince Rupert). Especially if better higher energy density batteries don't come along. As long as take-off doesn't require a scary speed regardless of power, it should be fine.

   I picked away at the drawing now and then. I used paper and pencil. I suppose it could be better done in LibreCAD or something on the computer.

   On the 24th I assembled the motor and the 5 inch ducted fan propeller together. It wasn't simple as they definitely weren't made to fit each other. The prop rubbed a little on the duct - depending on the orientation. I hope the motor is powerful enough to turn the fan sufficiently. And I hope the fan is big enough to power the large RC model. I note that the duct doesn't have the curved lip on the front that a video showed was optimum aerodynamically for greatest thrust. Sigh!
   The next day I wired things up and (almost two years after buying them) tried them out. I found which joystick on the transmitter/control went to which 3-pin plug on the receiver by plugging a servo into one at a time. It worked without having to set anything up. The receiver was apparently tuned to the same frequency as the transmitter, said to be 2,400,000,000 Hz (ugh, microwaves!*) although they were sold separately. I don't understand how one would keep different model aircraft from interfering with each other.
   The motor turned the right direction, but it seemed to work backward. It was "off" if the stick was pushed all the way forward and "on" when it was pulled back. Furthermore, when I turned off the transmitter, the motor revved up full and the ducted fan pulled the whole all-wired-together web off the hard table onto the floor. Even if I reversed the wires inside the control at the joystick to make it the right way around, it would still go to "max" instead of to "off" if it lost contact with the controller. I'm not fussy about that sort of arrangement! Is there an analog "inverter" option somewhere? If not I may have to make one. (Or was there some way to reprogram the "ESC" BLDC motor controller for that?)

   The tests were with 6 volts, with which it barely functioned and the motor "crapped out" if accelerated very fast. It should pull pretty well with 12 volts.

* Actually about 14 cm wavelength. Why they're called "microwaves", implying sub-millimeter wavelengths, I don't know.

Other "Green" Electric Equipment Projects

Carmichael Mill ("Bandsaw Alaska Mill")

   When I re-sharpened the band I was using for maybe the fourth time, it didn't cut very well. It didn't seem to have much "set" to the teeth, that is, one sticking out a bit to the left, the next to the right, and so on in a repeating pattern. If there's no set, the cut is no wider than the band or blade, and it binds.
   I took a small pair of blunt nosed pliers and bent the teeth out by hand. It only took 10 minutes. I got three more cuts out of the band and then it was plainly dull. When I took it off, there seemed to be little set to the inner teeth while the outer ones were still fine.

   This uncovered a problem with the mill. I had noticed this before when I took a dull band off. I finally realized that what it was was that the guide wheels were just a little too wide. Not the tips but the more base part of the teeth went over them and it gradually flattened them out so they didn't point slightly up. This would also explain why, when a band was dull and the saw cut 'bow' shapes across the cut, it was always convex - the outer, bottom teeth cut better.

   So I took the band guide wheels and turned a little off the edge on the lathe. In doing that, I noticed that on one of the wheels, the rim was worn very thin - like to 1/4 of the washer's original thickness. For now, I just swapped the wheels so the other one would wear instead. (They aren't aligned quite the same - hey it's a prototype!) And I'll oil them before each use. It might help.

Mining Beach Sand?

   I got a gold pan at Christmas time. I shoveled up some beach sand and tried to pan it. I didn't see anything special. Then on the 15th my microscope arrived from Westlab.ca (.com?) and I put a bit of the sand under it. It looked like there were a very few microscopic grains of gold, but more, nuggets of what might be platinum the size of small grains of sand. At least, with the light from above, they looked like pictures I've seen of platinum nuggets, aside from being almost microscopic. (Iron would surely have rusted away in the salt water.) Lit only from below under the microscope, they looked dark - opaque - contrasting with the translucent grains of quartz sand. If there was some way to separate them in bulk, it just might be worthwhile (monetarily) to do.

   I went on line and looked, but I wasn't liking what I was seeing. It seemed to be all nasty acid chemical processes with "Don't try this at home!" sort of cautions. And "highly poisonous with effects showing up months or even years later." so you might not even know you were hurting yourself. Sort of like speeding ticket cameras where the ticket - or multiple tickets - shows up in the mail after the drive is long forgotten. And one needed to similarly dissolve the element as a salt to "electro-win" it, too.

   Let's see... First, if there was anything magnetic, it could easily be separated out for disposal (or separate processing if it was worthwhile), with a supermagnet.

   A few years ago in my experiments I melted copper and silver on a kitchen stove burner. (See TE News #__) I wanted to tin plate pieces of copper. I melted solder on the stove and threw in the copper pieces. Much to my surprise they came out shrunken and misshapen or not at all. If stirred they disappeared quickly. Alloys melt at a lower temperature than any of the individual metals that compose them. The copper formed a surface alloy with the solder, which then melted into the pot, exposing more and more copper, until it was gone if it was left in long enough. It worked with silver quarters too. I got a lump of solder up to about 10% silver. And since they were melted at a low temperature and submerged in the tin, they didn't oxidize. Could this process somehow be used on the beach sand to get the (what looked like) microscopic metallic nuggets out of it? Perhaps one could end up with a lump of precious-metal-rich tin? Probably one could send that somewhere for processing to refine out the various elements, whatever ones were found to be worth doing.
   The trick would probably be how to separate the quartz sand grains (maybe 95-99%) from the metal (1-5% precious, plus the tin, which would have to be enough amount to submerge the sand being processed). A fine metal screen... would likewise dissolve. The quartz would probably be lighter than the metal.

    Someone told me what I needed to do first was to send some off for a "fire assay" to see if it was in fact worth doing anything with. If it is, then I should think further about how to process it.

Electricity Generation

Extending My Solar Power System

    Mounting the charge controller with a fan on the piece of fire-stop gyproc against the garage wall turned out to have one flaw. That wall was the other side of my bedroom wall, right next to the head of the bed. In the morning as it got light I could hear it buzzing through the wall. I tried cushioning it, without any apparent improvement. I took out the screws entirely and left it dangling by its wires. That helped. I could still hear it from in bed, but only a bit. Hmm... do I just leave it like that?

DC LED Lights

   One day in early to mid January, I went on line to Aliexpress.com and ordered a bunch of DC powered LED lights. Perhaps the most interesting ones were some that screwed into regular light bulb sockets and would run on 12 to 72 volts DC. At last, something I could run off my "ideal house wiring voltage", the 36-40 volt solar system! Other selections included a batch of 30x60 cm ceiling panels (just 94$C for three - 31$ each!) and some so-called "cob", "12 volt" flat LED emitter arrays. Those I also intend for the off-grid system, with sets of 3 in series for the 36-40 volts. I also found some adjustable drivers, simple, flexible units with two potentiometers, which could be adjusted as desired for any constant current or any constant voltage (within their limits of course). Those should be ideal for LED lights. (Later I found the order I placed was for the wrong ones, and I couldn't find the right ones again!)

   The first lights to arrive, on January 31st, were the 30x60 cm ceiling panels. They were very thin and light - even "flimsy", but once mounted on a ceiling who would care? A bigger problem, the description on the web site said "85-265 volts", but the power supply modules said "155-265 volts" and the light didn't light when I plugged the wires into a 120 VAC wall plug. This was discouraging.
   Then I tried running one straight off DC from a power supply. At the full 30 volts the panel lit up. Could they be run off of 36 to 40 volts? They were supposed to be 24 watts. That would be .62 amps at 38.9 volts. I hooked it up to the full 38.9 volts of the solar system with resistors to limit the current. With 22 ohms it was .22 amps with a moderate light. With 5 ohms it was .42 amps with quite a bright light, and with 1.5 ohms (or was it 1.0 ohms?) it was .62 amps and very bright. Nice light, fairly even across the panel face, with my favorite 4000°K color temperature. Only with no resistor was the current too high at .73 amps. Of course if I was going to keep it simple with a fixed resistor, during the day with the sun shining and up to 42 volts on the system, 5 ohms might be a good minimum to ensure current stayed under .57 amps. (24 W / 42 V)
   If I ran them all off the DC system, the wrong-voltage power supplies wouldn't matter. But I decided to complain because I wanted one or two of them in my dining area to run off the AC. I wrote a letter to the company. Then before I clicked "Send", I decided to make really sure they didn't work. I stripped off a bunch more insulation and again stuck the wires into the wall socket. To my great surprise, the light came on! In spite of them saying "155-265 volts", all was well. I'm glad I didn't send the letter. I deleted it and clicked the "Confirm Goods Received" button instead.

   I lucked out. They seem like pretty much perfect lights for 36-40 VDC power as well as good on line power. I may put in 3-way switches so they can be "bright" (5 ohms series resistor - sucking the life out of the batteries) or "subdued" (50 ohms - power conserving). I was tempted to order another 3, and on February 1st I did. I'm sure they're as salable as the rest of my solar equipment that isn't selling. Now I need a bunch of 10 watt resistors from Digikey for the simple 36-40 VDC power solution.

Off Grid and Grid Tie

   After I
connected up the "off grid" solar system, while still having grid power, it seemed about the only thing I was using solar/battery power for was a nightlight. It was my four "Cree" LED light, and it was actually quite bright on "high", but I kept it on "low" for the night for fear of running down a set of batteries.
   One sunny day that seemed like a waste of available power, and I split it: two panels to charge the batteries, and the other two I hooked back up to a grid tie inverter.
   On the 25th I was reminded that the 305 watt "monocrystalline" panels were supposed to be better in diffuse light. Perhaps it was time to put a couple of them up, either in addition or to replace the two weakest ones. (232 w & 240 w with the other two being 265, IIRC, but I don't know which panel is which. The labels are on the undersides and of course they are bolted down.)

Solar Hot Water?

   Some time ago I bought a small 120 volt water tank/water heater that I've been planning to install under the kitchen sink. But I want to run rainwater to it from barrels instead of the iron-rich water from the well that turns brown and turns dishes brown too. (And it takes approximately forever to get hot water at my kitchen sink anyway.) How would it make out being run by the solar system, or even by a solar panel directly? The trouble is, 40 volts is 1/3 voltage and so just 1/9 the power of 120 volts. It certainly wouldn't heat the water very fast even in the summer sun. But it should work and it would put the solar power to use. OTOH, it kind of makes a good case for a direct solar water heater with pipes instead of electrical connections.
   On the 26th I started coming up with a plan. Instead of putting the rainwater barrel just under the eaves and having it gravity feed to the electric tank, I would use the "submersible utility pump" I bought at Christmas time in Victoria. The barrel would be on the ground.
   For a pump system, one needs a pressure tank with air at the top and a pressure switch to shut the pump off when there's enough water under enough pressure. While looking at stuff in the building supply, it occurred to me that I had a brass hot water tank that I could use for two purposes: I could paint it black and put it in an insulated box with a glass cover, sideways, as a solar box water heater, and have it with air trapped in the top to make it double as the pressure tank. Nowhere nearby got full sun for more than three or four hours a day even in summer, but it could still help. (Hmm... up on the roof, directly above the rest, would get more sun. It shouldn't be too heavy for that.) The water would go into the electric heater preheated, and the water in the tank would extend the rainwater storing capacity of a 200 liter barrel to almost 300. And the (slightly) pressurized water would come out of the tap with more force than just gravity fed. To make it completely solar I could plug the hot water tank into the 40 volts DC to top up the temperature. In the winter in clouds and short days when the sun wouldn't do much, I could plug it into the 120 volt mains.

The materials I'll need are just whatever water tubing I can't come up with at home, and a pretty low pressure pressure switch. Oh... and time to do it all.

Run When There's Power?

   Something I keep finding is that it would be nice to have an appliance that runs when there's solar electricity but doesn't when the system is running off batteries. Like the water heater. There's also the cases that one wants to run the appliance even off batteries anyway at a certain point, usually going by the temperature. This would be if the fridge or freezer gets too warm, or if water is going to freeze or get colder than some limit.

   Concentrating for now only only the first point, what's needed is (a) an accurate measurement of the ON and OFF voltages and (b) a time delay before retry.
   With a charge controller, batteries will drop by themselves below some voltage if they are not on charge, and must be above the threshold in order to recharge. The ON voltage setting will turn the appliance on. Since appliances draw current, the voltage will drop a little when it does come on.
   The time delay feature is required because the appliance when turned ON may draw enough current (eg, if the sun isn't bright, or the battery charge is too low) that the voltage drops too much and turns it OFF again. Of course, as soon as the appliance turns off, the voltage comes up to the turn-ON level again. A delay of maybe between 1 and 30 minutes before trying to power it up again gives the system time to increase the power or charge available. So the device would be set up with two trimmer potentiometers for ON and OFF voltage from about 10 to 45 volts (for 12 to 36 volt systems), and a DIP switch with two or three selections for delay times. And perhaps there would be a preset minimum ON time as well, for example 3 or 4 seconds for a fridge compressor to start and get running at high current, after which the current drops substantially and the voltage would rise above the "power-OFF" setting.

   When I was using the thermoelectric fridge I thought of making a "smart" control for it that would take voltages and temperatures into account. Here instead would be a universal power control to hook into the power for any appliance, eg, plug it in and plug a lamp into it, and when the batteries are too low, the light would go out. The solar water heater would only run when the panels were supplying power at a good voltage, not off the batteries at night.
   When I used the 12 volt DC to 120 VAC inverter during the power failure in December, it drew enough power even with no load that it soon was sounding its "low voltage" alarm. I turned it off at the switch and thought that would be that. But I didn't actually disconnect it because I had used nuts to connect it (again an argument for standard plug-ins for everything!) and I didn't have a nutdriver or wrench handy. On January 27th I checked them and discovered to my horror that they were down to 5 volts. Even with the power switch "OFF" the inverter was drawing power and draining the batteries! Of course this power shut-off device would draw a bit too. It would have to itself be made micropower. But that can be done.

   Another interesting way to make it, still pretty cheap to make, would be with a microcontroller to turn the power on and off. Instead of programming buttons, plug in a computer mouse. Use the mouse buttons and roll it up-down or left-right to change the settings.

Putting up some of the New Solar PV Panels

   One day someone mentioned panels that were better in diffuse light, which jogged my memory that the new 305 watt monocrystalline panels I had bought also claimed to be better in lower light than others. After getting so few watts in December, perhaps I should be comparing with these new ones? And anyway it was high time I put a few of them to some use myself, even if no one had bought any from me. On the 28th I broke open the crate by cutting the four tough plastic straps wrapping it, two in each direction. Under the polyethylene the "crate" proved to be cardboard (by now all soaking wet in spite of the plastic and the metal roof pieces I had put on top), on a wooden palette. Very minimalist, but it seemed to have worked. To my surprise the panels were all on edge rather than laid flat, so the height of the contents was the width of the panels.

   I took two off the side. Beautiful, new panels! I cut four flat aluminum pieces 1" x 2.5" and drilled a 1/4" hole near each end. I put one end under each of four small slots on the bottoms of the panel frames and bolted them on. This made four tabs about 1-1/4 inches long, each with a hole, sticking out the sides to bolt the panel to the roof with a 3" x 1/4" lag screw. But I had no lag screws and used up the rest of the day going into town. I got them up the next day (29th). Unable to think of a better spot, I put them below the two that seemed to get the least shade. I got the wires run on the 30th and hooked both panels in parallel to the other grid-tie inverter, but it was getting pretty late in the afternoon.
   The next morning continued cloudy with mist and drizzle and there was little to no output. I checked about noon an found that all the panels were supplying .93 amps AC to the line. .5 was from the original (~500 W) panels and .43 from the new (610 W) ones. But it was so dull out I couldn't tell if (as seems likely) there were more tree shadows on the new panels as they were lower on the roof. On February 1st the sun finally made an appearance, and while it was still low, 1.6 amps was being supplied, .6 from the old panels and 1 from the new. (1.6 A * 120 V = 192 W) 15 minutes later it was 2.2 amps: (1.0, 1.2) = 264 watts. In the best part of the afternoon it was 4.24 A (2.0, 2.24) = 509 W... from about 1100 watts of panels. But each day is a bit longer and the sun a bit higher. It'll improve toward spring

Magnetic Flipping HE Ray Energy?

   I decided I would try to make a tuned circuit to "tune in" to the 16 KHz frequency from the car motor controller. Since the inductor was (to my surprise with so many winds) only 200 microhenries, that would need quite a large non-polarized capacitor - I worked it out to around 1800 uF. I also wanted it to be good for at least 100 volts. I thought about the capacitors I had, and realized I didn't have anything at all suitable.
   A trip to the websites of the usual electronic parts supplies on the 20th wasn't very helpful either. The closest I could find were motor start capacitors, but they were too small (still requiring several to make up the capacitance) and too costly - over 20$ and up each.
   Capacitors in series reduce the capacitance. If I took some of my 270 uF, 100 volt capacitors (motor controller power line filters) and put them in series in opposite directions to make them "non-polar", it would take two to make 135 uF. For almost 1800 uF, it would take 13 pairs, 26 capacitors. Appalling!

   Then on the 21st I got an idea. If I put diodes across the capacitors, it would prevent them from going into reverse bias (by more than a diode drop, .7 volts), and the two sets of capacitors pointing opposite directions wouldn't be in series with each other, since one of the diodes would always be conducting. So 270 uF would be 270 uF. That would cut the number in half to 14 - 7 for each voltage direction. Still a lot, but I had them and wouldn't need to place a (yet another) costly order. I wonder if anybody else has ever thought of that?
   By the end of the month all I had managed to do was get out the capacitors. Too many things to do!

Woodstove Thermoelectric Generators (TEGs)

   Having thought of the subject in December, I thought it would be good to get a couple more of TEC-TEG's very nice big heatsinks, which I had used in the thermoelectric fridge some years ago, for use in a woodstove electrical generator or other heatsinking purposes. I didn't see the heatsinks on the tecteg.com web site so I sent a message via their web form. I noticed they now had some ready-made woodstove generators. To my surprise I almost immediately got a phone call from Gerard, the owner.
   He said iron is a crappy heat conductor and woodstoves would get much hotter if they could be made of aluminum or copper. (Aluminum would surely melt and burn your house down. Copper probably, and it would cost a fortune. Of course it's why old stoves had removable round covers on the top for setting pots on to boil water.) I said, ya, it seemed one couldn't even get water boiling... so maybe one could just use ordinary peltier modules instead of TEG modules with high temperature solder. He assured me peltiers wouldn't last long in such an application - too close to the melting point of the solder (137°c or thereabouts) and even below 100° they would flex and break down. Considering they didn't seem to last all that long even on the thermoelectric fridge, I believe him.
   (He also said the manufacturers' claimed efficiency ratings of woodstoves like "85%" are BS and that much smoke goes unburned and much of the heat goes up the chimney. That too I believe.)

   He suggested mounting the TEG generator on the back of the stove on an aluminum plate, and putting some holes in the back to transfer heat to it. (or was that just bolt holes to mount the plate?) And to use water to carry off the heat from the cold side of the TEG modules. That could be done with stuff I had already bought from him so long ago and only used in a brief experiment or two... but I liked the idea of putting it on the back, or a side. That should allow finned air heatsinks to work quite well for convection cooling, which I was concerned might not work so well positioned horizontally on top of the stove. or maybe with small fans like the fridge used, if they still got too warm. My desire for getting the heatsinks increased.

   They also had their evacuated tube heat radiators shown, but when I asked he said they had phased them out owing to cost. I said I had tried making some something like that myself some years ago, but that I couldn't get a strong enough vacuum with the steam technique for them to work at the temperature range I wanted. He said I would need a vacuum pump for that. A light went on in my brain... I have one of those now! - yet another unusual but useful item given me by Jim Harrington of AGO. I might give it another try with that. I still have the peltier fridge, albeit stowed away. (Now where are those aluminum finned copper pipes I made?)

   I was about to say "bye" when I thought to ask some question about the 100 watt "rabbit ears" woodstove TEG shown, which I didn't understand. Gerard raved on and on about the features and CSA and UL approvals, while I still didn't understand even the basic operation. But he mentioned a PDF manual for it. Afterward I looked up the PDF manual on his web site and figured it out. The whole unit clamps onto the vertical stove pipe coming off the woodstove to get heat. Some heatsink fins (which are also catalytic converters to burn more flue gas at the fins) stick into the pipe through a couple of cutouts. A water pump carries heat from the "rabbit ears" pipes to a radiator system to heat the house farther from the stove, while fans cool the TEG modules' cold sides. A buck-boost converter lets the electricity charge 12 or 24 volt batteries or run 12/24 volt appliances directly.
   On top of that, it had various safety features and wireless connectivity and even text messaging, so it would warn you via your cellphone if for example the water level got low, or you could ask it for its status via cellphone.
   Personally I want less microwaves/WIFI/cellphone signals in the house rather than more, but all in all it seemed like a very nice piece of gear. No need to modify the stove itself, and it combines the functions. My main concern is whether there's enough heat in the exhaust coming off the stove during regular operation to keep it all working nicely. I suppose the colder the climate, the more wood gets thrown in and the more heat and electricity will be generated. "Call for pricing" suggested it costs quite a lot and has various options.

   But they also had some simpler complete woodstove TEG units with prices listed.

   All in all we talked for about 20 minutes and I learned a lot. Gerard pointed me to the web page where they did indeed still have the heatsinks and I ordered three of them. (Ouch, over 70$ each - up from 50 or 55$ in 2012 as best I recall.) They came, but I was busy with other things.

Electricity Storage

Rechargeable Battery Making
...oxalate electrolyte,
...or methyl hydroxide?

Attempts by Others to use Zinc

   For some reason I went on line and looked up further attempts by others to make long lasting or everlasting zinc electrodes. Some of the ideas may be good, but no one seemed to try to address the fundamental problem that zinc gradually dissolves at pH 14 by going to a lower pH.

Here is a sample in Science Magazine from April 2017:


   They stress benefits zinc should have over lithium types, and the "zinc sponge" idea is probably a good one -- yet still they are only speaking of 100 recharges. Like everything else I've read on the subject, this was of course written before my idea last year of using oxalate and pH 12 electrolyte. (Anywhere from pH 7.5 to pH 13 should work.)

   Has anybody in the field yet read my TE News issues from last year and realized lower pH electrolyte is surely the real way to tackle the problem? In a real chem lab they should be able to rapidly make the strides that I haven't been able to. There may be chemists who know of a whole selection of potential electrolytes besides oxalate they could try out. (doubtless more complex substances, since simple ones would be listed in the Wikipedia solubility table... and hey, before the end of the month, I found one: CH3OH!)

   Near the end of January I found that some recently were trying nafion ion selective membrane for electrode separators, and that this constituted "a considerable breakthough" in using zinc. Presumably it should block soluble zinc ions, whether Zn++ (in acidic) or ZnO2-- or Zn(OH)3- (pH 14 alkaline zincate ion). If it worked perfectly, it would solve the problem in spite of zinc solubility because the zinc ions would never get into the separator sheet, so they couldn't build dendrites across it or contaminate the plus electrode. This was outlined in this article:

[ http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/3/eaao1761 ]

High-capacity aqueous zinc batteries using sustainable quinone electrodes


Among the reported aqueous batteries, rechargeable zinc batteries (ZBs) are one of the most promising candidates because zinc anodes are affordable and exhibit high capacity (820 mA h/g), large production, and good compatibility with water (18‚-21). Up to now, great progress has been made on building high-performance ZBs using inorganic compounds such as metal oxides (18, 19, 22‚-28) and Prussian salts (29‚-31), in which Zn-MnO2 battery systems are most widely studied. On the one hand, efforts on the MnO2 cathode side largely focus on preparing high-capacity cathodes (18, 19, 22, 27, 28) and inhibiting dissolution of Mn3+ ions (19, 24, 32, 33). Oh and Kim (32) discovered that the addition of various manganese (II) salts can increase the cycle stability of a MnO2 cathode. Pan et al. (19) further reported that Œ±-MnO2 nanofiber cathodes could display long-cycle stability over 5000 cycles at a high rate of 5 C after inhibiting Mn3+ dissolution with MnSO4 added to ZnSO4 electrolyte. Yadav and co-workers (27, 28) found that a Cu2+-intercalated Bi‚Ä쌥-MnO2 cathode exhibited a capacity of 617 mA h/g (the theoretical second electron capacity) for over 6000 cycles against a Ni counter at 40 C and the same capacity for over 900 cycles against a Zn anode. On the other hand, strategies toward solving the problems of Zn anodes have also been tried (34, 35). At high Zn utilizations, the shape change passivation and dendrite issues also plague the life of ZBs, which seems to be a large part of the problem of short-lived cells (28, 35‚-37). Ito et al. (38) found that mesh-type anode current collectors with reduced areas were of potential interest for zinc deposition. Wei et al. (39) found that Bi and Cu substrates were suitable current collectors in zinc-anode alkaline rechargeable batteries. In addition, Zn is known to generate soluble ZnO2-- in alkaline Zn-MnO2 batteries, which will poison the cathode and cause structure distortion (28, 40, 41). Bai et al. (41) demonstrated that an ion-selective separator can efficiently avoid cathode poisoning by preventing the diffusion of ZnO2--. Calcium hydroxide layers have also been tried to trap zincate ions and address Zn blocking to avoid the structure distortion of MnO2 (28, 40).

As mentioned above, a considerable breakthrough has been made on rechargeable ZBs, especially with inorganic cathodes"

   Meanwhile back at the ranch:

Oxalate electrolyte, or not?

I thought about it:

1. One cell in potassium oxalate, starting with fresh zinc and perhaps with MnOOH, had discharged great at the 1.15 volt level. But when I tried to charge it a little, it seemed as if it didn't charge. The next discharge started about where the last one had left off. When I tried to charge it more, the manganese didn't - according to the voltage - go to valence 4; the voltage didn't go up to 1.5 V. And the performance dropped off: probably I had turned the zinc into hydrate again.

2. In a cell (eg Ni-MH) with hydroxide electrolyte, the OH- ions have a single charge. Likewise, the hydride and the nickel both move a single charge at a time. This matches. In a Pb-Pb lead-acid battery, the SO4-- sulfate ions have a double charge. But the lead goes from PbO2 (valence 4) to PbSO4 (valence 2) in the plus side, and from Pb (valence 0) to PbSO4 (valence 2) in the minus electrode. Again this matches, 2-2-2. And we know that zinc works (albeit with gradual degradation at pH 14) in hydroxide, so it must work that two OH- electrolyte ions are used at once to change the zinc to Zn(OH)2 or ZnO + H2O.

3. In the Mn-Zn cell however, the C2O4-- electrolyte ions have a double valence. And the calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 is also double valence. Likewise, zinc going from Zn (0) to ZnC2O4 (2) is a double valence move. But on the plus side, Mn(C2O4)2 (4) to Mn2(C2O4)3 (3) would be a single valence move. In charging (the other direction) it's still a single valence move. It doesn't match the valence two electrolyte ions. That might be trickier for the molecules with a double valence electrolyte. It could be either that the manganese won't charge, or else, having charged, that it won't discharge and either way gives no voltage rise. (Earlier unsuccessful attempts to charge nickel oxides electrodes might also have had the same problem - in which case if it can be solved, they might work as well as manganese oxides.)

4. When I made the Pb-Zn in oxalate cell last June using a commercial PbO2 plus electrode (TE News #121), it had seemed to work, including charging. (It probably deteriorated because I overcharged the zinc electrodes to hydride again before knowing about that problem.) Here, both electrodes changed 2 valence states at once, matching the double valence oxalate electrolyte.


* It is doubtless worth trying lead-zinc again. (There's 3 new cells left of the 6 in the little battery I bought!)

* It is doubtless worth trying sodium oxalate with the bottle of it now on order, alone or with potassium oxalate, to see if it might act as a catalyst for the reactions that don't seem to work with potassium oxalate. Potassium oxalate is soluble to 30+ grams in 100 grams of water and sodium oxalate only 3.6, so if it worked only by itself it would be pretty weak. But still much better than calcium hydroxide at .17.

* It is probably worth trying calcium hydroxide by itself with manganese oxides - zinc if the above doesn't work, with fresh electrodes never exposed to oxalate. The zinc wouldn't deteriorate, but current capacity per square centimeter of separator would be very low. And again there's a chance it wouldn't work because of the double valence of the electrolyte.

   On a side note, when I was making manganese negative electrodes, I figured the zinc current collectors would stay solid because the negative voltage of manganese was higher than that of zinc. However, I now realize that hydrogen bubbling during charging at those electrodes caused the zinc to become brittle zinc hydride, and that's why the terminal tabs corroded off. The zinc powder and the portion of the current collectors within the manganese powder electrode didn't corrode. If I had had the overvoltage raising substances (antimony sulfide and zirconium silicate) in the zinc terminal tabs too, they might have been okay. Or now that I have some lead sheet, I might try making a manganese negative electrode again with a lead current collector and see how that fares. The electrode voltage (~ -1.5 V) is certainly excellent, whatever the other characteristics might be!

Lead-Zinc in Oxalate (with commercial lead oxide electrode plates) Again (Jan 9th - Aborted!)


   The main difference this time from the experiments last June would be that I was now aware that overcharging turns the zinc into hydride, which doesn't discharge well, leading to rapidly dropping discharge voltages. And also I was now aware that after etching the zinc sheets in ferric chloride, I need to use solvent to get rid of residual chloride, which would contaminate the electrolyte. Chloride dissolves most metals including zinc and slightly, lead.
   Presumably the plus electrodes were already charged up to PbO2 at the factory, and the zinc was metallic, so both electrodes are already charged when assembled. Thus it shouldn't have notable self discharge, and an initial discharge should go well, as it did last June.


   The chief questions then are what happens during the first discharge, during charging, and during the second and subsequent discharges.

a) for the minus side, the Zn(0) would discharge to valence 2, either as ZnC2O4 or as ZnO (or Zn(OH)2?)

   BUT: If during discharge the zinc becomes ZnC2O4, what happens to the K+ ions of that K2C2O4 in the electrolyte? It would seem that the only real possibility is that they would become 2 KOH. Then what happens to the 2 H+ left over from that?

   Another possibility is that the next zinc molecule will become ZnO from the KOH, leaving HOH... but again, 2 spare K+.

   But what is happening on the plus side? Presumably as in lead-acid, discharge would be: PbO2 (4) ==> PbC2O4 (2). But if this happened, we would now have 2 K+ and 2 O-- left over. The 2 O-- would react with 2 water to become 4 OH-. Hmm... that would use up the spare 2 K+ from the minus side and the 2 K+ from the plus side, as 4 KOH. How convenient - no hydrogen bubbling off!


   Now with all the KOH just made, one might expect the solution to become more and more alkaline as the cell discharges, and as with lead-acid and sulfate, the concentration of oxalate in solution to drop. However, what I suspect will really happen in the alkaline case is that the KOH will preferentially react before the K2C2O4. If that is the case, what we would see is just enough electrode-C2O4 reactions to liberate just enough KOH, and most of the subsequent reactions will be the same as if KOH had been used as the electrolyte. But the concentration of KOH will be very minimal and not raise the pH (much). On discharge most of the electrode molecules will become PbO and ZnO rather than PbC2O4 and ZnC2O4.
   Some of the molecules would become oxalates, but since metals don't dissolve in oxalate, the electrodes won't deteriorate as they did in chloride. (Potassium Sulfate would work for lead, but zinc would dissolve.)

- Obviously electrical performance and capacity.
- Check pH. (suspect KOH in solution?)
- Check specific gravity charged and discharged. If it gets low with discharge, the C2O4 is probably being used up.
- Also look for hydrogen bubbling off including during DIScharge, especially the initial discharge.

   So much for having set it all up!; I diverted back to Manganese-Zinc.

Totally Common Ingredients!?! New Mn-Zn Cell With Very Weak Potassium Hydroxide

   One could attempt a cell with just calcium hydroxide. We know that it is so little soluble in water that the pH only rises to 12 instead of 14, below that highest pH where zinc forms a soluble ion that gradually degrades the electrode. It should probably work with the zinc albeit with low current capacity.
   But if used with nickel or manganese oxides discharging and charging a single valence, might it have the same problem of being double valence as oxalate seemed to have?
   If so, there's another possibility I somehow hadn't considered of before: use potassium hydroxide, but use such a tiny amount that the pH stays below 13. That would pretty much have to work, again with much reduced current capacity but giving very long cell life. And one could select the pH and concentration, albeit from a very small useful range.

   And it was a really easy thing to try: dump out the Ca(OH)2 from the last, seemingly unsuccessful attempt, dilute it out, mix some very weak KOH and pour it in. I thought the last try, with Ca(OH)2, might have been unsuccessful because there was still C2O4 in the electrodes (in spite of washing them), but more likely it was the two valence electrolyte thing.

Take-apart on the 9th. Various stuff has built up on the electrodes and the separator sheets.
The blue would be copper hydroxide. The white may be a zinc derivative - oxide or oxalate.

   Late on the 9th I had the electrodes and case cleaned off. I poured 100 cc into a beaker and did an initial pH check. 6. About right for rainwater. Pure water is neutral pH ~7, but when exposed to air it absorbs carbon dioxide which makes it slightly acidic. Hmm... water without CO2 would be better! With little thought, how much potassium hydroxide? Hmm... I started with .25 of a gram. After I put it in I remembered calcium hydroxide would only dissolve .173 of a gram. So it was already in the right ballpark. I stirred it and checked pH; about 11.5. Rather than add more I waited a bit and measured again: 13. Treacherous stuff, KOH! Still later it seemed to be about 12.5. Perhaps it was absorbing carbon dioxide and losing strength? I assembled the cell and poured in 50 cc. It started just under .60 volts and crept just over that figure in a few minutes. I set the power supply to 1.6 volts. It started charging at just 80 mA and was soon down to 40. Rather disappointing currents.

   Well! I now was using manganese dioxide and zinc, in potassium hydroxide. These are the most common of all battery chemicals. The manganese side had even come out of working batteries. The only thing I was doing differently now from commercial cells was using the very weak solution. (...aside from using pocket cell construction with flooded electrolyte instead of dry cells) Was the weaker solution the only change that needed to be made to today's cells in order to have long lasting cheap batteries?
   Being almost the same as "the usual" chemistry, how could it not work? It seemed to start taking a charge - the voltage rose. I might have to replace the zinc electrode if it bubbled much hydrogen, but the manganese oxide doubtless had a long way to charge. But, no more day after day of long charging - if it didn't work in a few hours, the zinc was probably getting hydrogenated.
   It didn't work in a couple of hours. It still had the same continuous discharge down to well under a volt, here in minutes, as most of my cells. Changing to a new piece of zinc didn't help at all, so the problem was evidently in the manganese 'trode. The pH had dropped to 12. Could it be that the MnO2 electrode was still contaminated with oxalate? But why would that mess things up anyway? Or did that 20 amp-hours of Mn that had refused to take or hold a charge in oxalate just need an awful lot of charging?
   The best way to check it out, since I had already tried to get the oxalate out, seemed to be to make a new electrode, the same as the present one. For the plus side with its perforated, painted filled copper pockets, this had become quite a task. And if I was going to the trouble, might I try nickel oxide again instead of manganese? The voltage would be higher. Nah! - introduce new variable after everything was working, not before! But maybe I should make it much thinner - having so many amp-hours of substance to charge up at such slow rates was excruciating for testing.
   And speaking of that, now with such weak electrolyte, what would be the effect on charge rate (soon down to 20 mA) if a thinner separator was used? I took out the plastic grill and put in a sheet of parchment paper. It didn't seem to make any notable difference. Nor to voltage drop in a heavy discharge. I guess thinness is only very useful in dry cells. Wet cells with thick plastic separators are more robust, so we'll keep the grills.
   On the 10th I started charging the cell. Several times I checked to see how much current it was drawing and how much voltage it would hold after one, two and three minutes, then I did a load test with a 10 ohm resistor for just ten seconds and noted the voltage after that time. It was pretty pathetic, almost like it was a short circuit current test. By 4 in the afternoon it didn't seem to improve much more than earlier. In the last test past midnight it was below 10 mA, held 1.596, 1.576 and 1.564 volts, and was holding up to .8 volts in the load test (following a couple of .78 - earlier figures being even more pathetic). It recovered to 1.526 volts after the load test. Next the self discharge... how much voltage would it still have by morning? I had done my best to seal it up with maudlin clay. (AKA modeling clay, but this certainly wasn't the best I've used.)
   Sure enough, the next morning, 9 hours later, the cell was down to .941 volts. Here was a cell now with, but for the weak KOH solution, exactly the same chemistry as commercial dry cells, which hold their charge for YEARS. And those were entirely different chemicals from many other cells of mine that had similar high self discharge. Yet it had the same awful self discharge as all my cells have had with repeated monotony over the years. WHAT ON EARTH WAS I DOING WRONG? (I found out later that MnO2 electrodes could be deleteriously contaminated by zinc oxide. No doubt this one was quite contaminated.)

Was it the Water?

   What was left? Could it possibly be the water? I had been using Britta filtered water all this time, which I understood was next best to distilled. Activated charcoal is supposed to take out most everything. And since I moved up here, it was starting as rain water, which should already be pretty pure. And I had once done a test for nitrates/nitrites (a chief self-discharge culprit) and come up with nothing. But what was left but the water?
   On the 11th without even stopping for breakfast I drove into town and bought some distilled water. I put the electrodes and battery parts in some of it to soak and dilute out any nitrates or other soluble whatevers that might be in them from the Britta filtered water. In the afternoon I put it together. It initially read about .7 volts. Within two hours of charging all the readings were above (one was just at) what they were after charging the whole of the previous day. And they continued to improve. But wait... this time I had put in two zinc plates instead of one. Oops, not the best for making a good comparison! But overnight would be the main test. Either it would still be up near where it was not too long after taking it off charge, or it would be way down again. But from what I was seeing in the shorter tests, it looked like it would be the latter because after recovering from each load test, it slowly started dropping again, millivolt by millivolt. Still, it seemed much better than previously.

   What actually happened ovenight was in between. Overnight in 9 hours it dropped to 1.20 volts, much better than to .94 but still completely unusable for a practical cell. I tried a load test and the voltage dropped to .5 volts (instead of about 1 volt shortly after charging), so it definitely had lost much or most of its energy. Could it be that the new electrolye was good, but the electrodes were still harboring nitrates or whatever it was that was causing the problem? I could try all-new electrodes, or I could try diluting them again and changing the electrolyte and seeing if there was further improvement.
   The latter was the easiest. But I went out and started milling some more wood before I got to it. Then I waited a while for the diluting to hopefully take effect. When I put it back together after a while a bent zinc tab shorted shorted to the copper and the cell became almost completely discharged. By the time I had it working properly it was already late. So instead of taking it off charge overnight I put it on for the night. I charged and observed it some more on the 13th. The pH had dropped under 12 according to the color of the pH paper. 11.5?

   I do think that somehow the Britta filter was putting a bit of nitrate/nitrite into the solution. I had also put some britta water into the lead-acid cell days previously. It too had gradual self discharge, but it was taking many days, not hours. It seemed that perhaps low current capacity was the chief problem.

Thicker KOH Electrolyte: Finding Solutions

   On the evening of the 13th I decided I had had enough of ultra-weak potassium hydroxide solution. But I still didn't have the sodium oxalate to try out. I decided to put some more KOH into the solution. What did I care in an experiment if it made dendrites, when I could easily remove the plates, examine them (and maybe learn something), and wipe or clean them off, or easily replace them?
   But rather than go whole hog, I took the top off the cell, got some tweezers, and started dropping in flakes of KOH. It probably wasn't even a gram and the pH still only read 13, but the decaying voltage that had dropped to 1.4xx rose all by itself to 1.668 volts!  Apparently the cell was quite well charged already after all -- the dropping voltages weren't indicating self-discharge of the electrodes! And in a 10 ohm discharge test it stayed over 1.2 volts after 10 seconds. A thicker solution would surely conduct still better, doubtless by a good margin.

   Of course electrolyte is the key. It would seem that potassium oxalate with calcium hydroxide didn't/doesn't work right (for some reason), but that alkali that made only pH 12 it seemed was simply too thin for proper operation, even disregarding low current capacity. (The problem couldn't be the pH itself, because Mn-Zn dry cells work fine at pH 7.) pH 13 at least seemed to work, and probably wouldn't result in zinc dendrites, although it was approaching the limit. (The limit might be approximate, and it might vary with temperature or other conditions. Being too near it might make zinc dendrites, just more slowly.) Perhaps there was a possible balance there if there was no other way to make long lasting cells with zinc.
   In a 15 ohm load test for 30 seconds the cell stayed above 1.25 volts. I couldn't of course stir the solution within the cell and the pH was down to 12 again. I added a few more flakes. Then I graduated to a small spoon, and added a few more... and a few more.... and a few more. It was hard to keep it up to pH 13 with these small measures as it diffused through the cell's 50 cc or so of water. pH 13 is a lot more alkaline than 12 - I understand each step is 10 times stronger than the previous. It also took adding a lot more hydroxide to get to. There must have been a few grams by now. (2.5 g instead of .25 g? Ya, ya, I should have measured it!) Another load test with 30 ohms held almost 1.5 volts after 2 minutes, and then with 10 ohms held 1.25 volts after 2 minutes. And each new test was without any charging after the previous. How much more hydroxide could I put in without getting up to zinc dendrite territory? Enough for it to behave like a real battery?
   The next morning (14th) the cell was down to 1.44 volts - a definite improvement over any other recent result. pH seemed to be about 13, or maybe just over. And in a two minute load test with 10 ohms it stayed above a volt and was dropping only very slowly. It recovered - over an hour or more - to 1.415 volts, which it still held two hours later. (Then I put it back on charge.) Without going back too far into history, it would seem that other than seemingly contaminated water, mainly my recent "self-discharge" problems were also related to non-performing or very weak electrolytes. The weakness was simply highlighted by the slight water contamination.
   In the evening I checked it again and ran a load test with 10 ohms. I was just going ot run it for 2 minutes, but I left it on until the voltage dropped under a volt: 32 minutes. At that point the voltage was dropping only about 3 mV per minute. So it supplied over 100 mA for over 1/2 an hour, and probably would have run at least 2 hours before the voltage was under .9 volts, and even then continued on. If it wasn't spectacular and even at that I was obviously asking more than it could give without substantial voltage drop, it was at least some real current for a considerable period. Eventual recovery to 1.4 volts over the next 1/2 hour indicated substantial remaining potential.

   At some point in there I read that while a cell is idle, alkalinity 'accumulates' toward the negative electrode, while acidity forms near the positive. Hmm! That doesn't sound like a desired effect when it's the zinc where the alkalinity needs ot be lowest.

Sodium Oxalate

   Obviously the cell powered a load better, and the seeming "self discharge" decreased, as electrolyte density increased. But one could put a lot more oxalate in the solution than hydroxide without making it pH 14 and forming zinc dendrites. I wanted that sodium oxalate to arrive and fervently hoped it would work with all the chemical components of the cell, both for charging and discharging reactions. Another possibility occurred to me: potassium oxalate and weak potassium hydroxide, under pH 13. For that, all I had to do was add the oxalate and see what happened.
   But I didn't try the potassium oxalate and the next day (15th) the sodium oxalate did arrive - along with my new microscope, which I had finally broken down and bought one of. That evening I added just .55 g of it to the cell. And no potassium oxalate. The cell voltage soon rose from 1.377 volts (or so) to 1.392. Not the giant increase back above 1.5 volts hoped for. At least it suggested it had some effect, and it was just 1/2 a gram.
With about 50 cc in the cell and solubility of just 3.6 g/100 cc, I could only put in less than 2 g max. Since it's not very soluble and it had to work its way around the cell, I waited a while. It didn't rise any farther.
   After some hours playing with it, charging currents seemed to be about double, but it didn't seem to drive a load any better. Then I must have left it on too long: charging current went up from 70 mA to 100, and when I took the charge off, the voltage dropped fairly rapidly. I suppose I must have turned the zinc into hydride.
   Speaking of that, I had immersed some previous zinc sheets in distilled water. Over a period of days, bubbles formed. Apparently the hydrogen was coming out of them. I and the piece I had read also said the hydride would come out rapidly above 90°c. It didn't say it had to be in water for that, but no doubt it does. I put the zinc plates in water in a bread pan on the woodstove.

Alcohol: Methyl Hydroxide

   I got rather tired of everything (perhaps especially the continuing disappointments) and left the battery for a day. The oxalate just didn't seem to be working the way I had expected. There were a few more things I could try.

   Hydroxide always worked and was the obvious choice, but pH 14 was a problem for zinc. All the alkaline first and second row elements that would dissolve made pH 14. No others were soluble enough, including "ammonium hydroxide" (ammonia) which has strange properties and little actual hydroxide. I thought back to when I had first started trying to make a better battery chemistry, long ago and had been thinking of organic things. Methyl things... acetone (methyl-methyl ketone)... methylene chloride (no chlorides!)... Why had my thoughts strayed in those directions?
   I went to the Westlab.com site and searched on "methyl". Methyl test kits... methylene chloride... methylene blue... methyl red... orange... violet... methyl alcohol. That was the only vaguely promising looking substance. What was it? CH3OH - a hydroxide! In fact, an alternate name for it is Methyl Hydroxide. How blind I've been! Why had my thoughts strayed into other directions? If I had heard that name years ago, I'd probably have been right onto it! (Well, maybe, anyway.) What was its pH in solution? A search was frustrating. It seemed it was hard to determine; that most pH measuring techniques don't work with organic solvents. But it sounded like it might be slightly acidic if anything - nothing like pH 14. Some seemed to think it wasn't even proper to speak of an organic compound as having a pH. WOW! A simple, soluble hydroxide that wasn't pH 14! How had I missed it all these years? I guess what I had missed was that:

wood alcohol = methanol = methyl alcohol = methyl hydrate = methyl hydroxide.

   Might I say that I found these multiple confusing? None of them sound the same substance as each other, but they are all names for CH3OH. I don't recall ever hearing the last of those terms "hydroxide" until looking it up now, which should have been the one to "ping" in my mind while doing battery research and lead me to experiment with it. In fact it was years before the fact that:

"hydrate" = hydroxide

really sunk into my brain.

   OTOH, there's no point kicking myself. Either it doesn't work for some obscure reason anyway, or nobody else has figured it out in over a century of battery research so a decade isn't bad.

   Again the pH could probably be tweaked to 12 with calcium hydroxide, or to any desired alkaline value with very weak potassium hydroxide. I ordered some CH3OH. And of course a couple more things to get to the "free shipping" amount, 75$. (The beaker arrived broken.) Taxes, dangerous goods surcharge... there went yet another 100 bucks. (So soon after my last order! But ideas don't all come at the same time, or necessarily at convenient times.) Maybe I shouldn't have ordered 150$ worth of DC powered LED lights (for off-grid experiments and for sale) the day before.

Something twigged in my memory. Yup! I have a 3/4 full one liter bottle of "methyl hydrate". It's been sitting around for ages and I've had no idea what to use it for - or what it really was. It says "Central Builders Supply - $1.29"... so no doubt purchased by my parents in Courtenay in the 1970s. (How did I get it?) Groan! Now I remember picking it up and looking at it early in my battery experiments. And I'm sure I looked up the formula. What made me set it aside and forget it without trying it? I guess the idea that some sort of hydroxide was the best electrolyte hadn't yet dawned on me.
   And evidently I didn't need to order the "methyl alcohol". It's exactly the same thing! I could probably have just got more at a hardware store for $1.29... or more like $12.90 or more today. Oh well, if it works I'll have lots for a small production lot.

I mixed this solution:

360 g distilled water
 40 g methyl hydroxide (the hydroxide electrolyte)
   1 g potassium hydroxide (to raise the pH above neutral)

   I cleaned and rinsed all the components and again washed the electrodes in gasoline.

   The zinc electrodes had areas of a black color with sparkles, especially on the back side. Under the new microscope, the surface looked broken up, and the sparkles were mostly triangular tiny shaped bright crystals. Zinc oxalate? If it was going to break up anyway, did I need to etch them? And then... might I anyway do better to torch them to roughen the surface?

   I assembled and filled the cell. Initially it only read around .3 volts. I connected the charge at 1.7 volts, and it was quickly down below 100 mA, and to 50 after 15 minutes or so. All pretty disappointing. But when I disconnected the power after only a few minutes of charging, the voltage seemed to stay much higher than usual for such a short charge. But it didn't seem to hold up any better than usual after a few hours charging and a longer sitting time.

   On the 19th I took it apart and put the Mn electrode into paint thinner. Was something within the electrode causing self discharge that might be dissolved in that? I put it back together and filled it with the same mix. It started out at .60 volts but was rising by itself ("self recharge"?) and soon it was .75. It being very late at this point, I left it overnight without charging it.

Proton Membranes

   There is yet another possibility to consider: one can use two different electrolytes with a proton exchange membrane in between them. For example, nickel oxyhydroxide works fine in pH 14 potassium hydroxide. And nickel [plated] current collectors won't oxidize away. But zinc has that soluble ion. Perhaps methyl hydroxide, or potassium oxalate, would be the choice for the negative. They could each have a separate electrolyte with a Nafion film in between. (Oops, I think Nafion is attacked by strong alkali. Maybe something else on the "+" side, then.) Just hypothetical at this point, but two electrolytes could provide a solution if one side doesn't like an electrolyte that works well in the other one.

   And what is the magic of nafion? It only passes protons, not negative ions. Among its properties, it would seem the ends of the polymer chains are "sulfonate groups". The stuff costs a fortune for small pieces. What else has sulfonates? "Lemon Fresh Sunlight" dishsoap. Going back to what I was doing long ago, rather than putting it directly in the electrode, could dense, heavy watercolor paper impregnated with Sunlight act as a proton ion membrane between the electrodes?
   I realized this might even solve the potential problem of charging manganese to permanganate. A tiny bit will dissolve (turning the water purple), and when it drifted to the negative electrode, it would solidify into manganese hydroxide, contaminating the negative and gradually disintegrating the positive. With a proton membrane separator the MnO4- ions couldn't get to the negative side. A tiny bit would stay dissolved and the rest would remain. Only the "+" side water would be purple. That was what I wanted for the longest time and a potential solution was right in front of me.

   If it could be charged to permanganate, with permanganate being only slightly soluble and assuming the reaction was reversible, the "+" side voltage could be .80 volts instead of .25 volts, making the cell theoretically 2.0 volts instead of 1.45 -- 38% more energy could be stored in the same cheap Mn-Zn cell, which was already higher energy than lithiums. That would of course be assuming nothing like zinc dendrites formed in the plus electrode. Owing to the slight solubility, it seems like a good chance any that started to form would dissolve.
   It is probably also why the Ni-Mn cells I made so long ago charged to such high voltages, since the positive was actually nickel-manganese, which would have formed nickel manganates of similarly high oxidation states:

+.8 v - -1.5 v = 2.3 v. (They actually charged to as high as 2.6, just as the Mn-Zn charges to over 1.5.)

   In those I had put the Sunlight straight into the electrode, but its sulfonates probably had about the same effect.
   I hope the same thing can be accomplished with the dishsoap, but in the interests of better research I broke down and ordered a square foot of nafion membrane. (Egads, I just have to stop spending so much money!)

An interesting and perhaps relevant feature of nafion, considered a flaw in the abstract of a book I saw for sale on eBay, Nafion Nanocomposite Membranes for the direct methanol fuel cell, is that alcohol can "permeate it from the anode to the cathode during operation". This may mean that the methyl hydroxide and its hydroxide ions can actually go through it even when water and permanganate ions can't.
   An interesting and perhaps relevant feature of manganese is that above pH 13 it can form a soluble ion [Mn(OH)3-] if it is overdischarged. So keeping the pH below that may keep the MnO2 plus electrode as well as the zinc minus from deteriorating.

   Now, how does one seal around the edges of the nafion? Hmm... Apparently with barium metasilicate. I can't even seem to make practical batteries at all, and this is getting complicated! Still, if one wants really better batteries...

Back to the Cell

   I had to wonder, at some point, why the already small number of short circuit amps had become hundreds of milliamps instead. That indicated a tenfold drop in performance. As I had changed zinc electrodes a couple of times, and electrolyte more than once and now to a more concentrated solution, the only remaining active component was the MnO2 electrode. There had been whitish build-up on the zinc electrodes which I eventually attributed to calcium. The perforations in the positrode looked whitish. I went after them with paint thinner and a cotton swab... and then a toothbrush. That seemed to get rid of the whitish color around the holes.
   The cell drifted from .995 upward to 1.10 volts by itself over 25 minutes. At that point I put the charge on. Currents didn't seem to be any higher.
   Before bed I put a 30 ohm load on it, and left it for 22 hours. What harm could it do? In theory, nothing should dissolve or degrade. It spent about 21 hours delivering less than 1/2 a volt, but it kept on going and going. The next evening (22nd) I turned it off putting out .345 volts. It recovered within a minute to .75 volts and continued eventually to rise to .92. Then I put it on charge.But after a couple of hours, the current went up and when disconnected, the voltage dropped rapidly.
   It seemed to me that, with this having happened several times in total, it could hardly be anything but the zinc forming dendrites and shorting across the gap. This in spite of the charts showing zinc as having no dissolved phase between pH 7 and 13.5. Was the methyl hydroxide so acidic that in spite of the small addition of potassium hydroxide, it was below pH 7? As others have noted, it definitely was hard to measure the pH in the organic solution. When I had put the pH paper in it turned green for a moment, indicating slight alkalinity, then orange indicating mild acidity, with a stripe of green at the edge of the wetted area.
   Was my whole idea of using zinc, for various reasons depending on the electrolyte, an unworkable one then?

   But another possibility altogether for using zinc had started tugging at my mind. Zinc, whether as Zn(OH)3-, ZnO2-- or Zn++ ions, couldn't pass through or even enter a nafion membrane. If there were no zinc ions in the separator sheet, would it not be the case that they couldn't short circuit through it? Zinc dendrites might build up, but they should all stop at the nafion separator sheet, there being no more zinc ions to be had in that direction. But had no one else already tried this? Having thought of it, and with so many people having tried to use zinc as an electrode, it seemed like a fairly obvious idea. Sure enough, a web search found some papers. (Excerpt above) The first one said it represented "a considerable breakthrough" in the use of zinc in batteries. A couple of other however mentioned putting zinc oxide powder together with nafion power and then dissolving out the zinc oxide, to get bigger pores. The purpose of that wasn't made clear, but it would seem to be counterproductive for using a zinc electrode in a cell.

   I started getting frustrated and discouraged. But perhaps I was too hasty... Difficult tho it might be to measure, the solution surely must have some pH value. After a bit the pH test strip had said it was a bit acidic. I think "somewhat acidic" was said of methyl hydroxide, and there was only a bit of potassium hydroxide in it to raise the pH. With nothing else in the solution, the bit of KOH would raise the pH to 12 or 13. But if it had to counter an acidic substance, it would doubtless take substantially more to get the pH up. A pH below 7 would explain zinc dissolution and dendrites. The next thing to try before abandoning the present setup (after inspecting the zincs and seeing if I can see the dendrites, then cleaning or replacing them) is to add some more KOH to the mainly CH3OH solution to get to - or at least make sure it's in - a somewhat alkaline condition and not forming Zn++ ions.
   And I was reading of "poisoning" MnO2 electrodes with zinc ions. Perhaps it's time for a new "+" side as well, after all the experiments this one has been through. It's doubtless highly contaminated by now.

Pourbaix diagram for copper. (in chloride, oh well.)
   Examining the "discharged" zinc plates and the separators with the microscope was revealing: there were dendrites all right. But the orange color was unmistakable. They were copper dendrites, especially in a couple of small patches. Perhaps there were holes in the paint there, but it surely pointed to a low alkalinity or acidic solution that would dissolve copper. There was some darker color in them in some areas that probably indicated zinc mixed with the copper. Then there were some blue blobs in one area that were probably copper hydroxide - by deduction, blue for copper and hydroxide being the only thing in the electrolyte for it to combine with. Beside one was a telltale copper dendrite.

Copper Dendrite on the electrode separator grille - magnified x40(?)

Copper (& some zinc) dendrites and some blue copper hydroxide

Coarse zinc oxide (I presume) on the zinc plate, and some very fine within a slightly raised
"dome" area.
The "fine' particles are what I would suppose will recharge to metallic Zn form readily.
I suspect the "coarse" form comes from the particles temporarily dissolving instead of
staying closely on the surface. So at the right pH I suspect "fine" will be the main or
only form. ...This could of course all be a mistaken assumption. Next try, with higher pH,
should tell.

   More perplexing were some white blobs. A couple were in the separator grille, more were on the surface of the zinc electrodes. Left over calcium saying that my previous cleanings hadn't been very good? or maybe zinc hydride? More "salty" looking white crystals (above) probably indicated zinc oxide. But the way they stuck up, I could hardly see how they would plate back on nicely during recharging. Between the grains looked mainly like zinc, and in a few raised areas were very fine white patterns right on the surface of the zinc. (surely zinc oxide.) These I could imagine recharging properly.

   Well, I'm glad I bought the microscope. I'm not sure how much of this I would have caught with just handheld magnifying lenses. Yep! Makes me wonder what I've missed before. [Would a SEM or an X-ray diffraction spectroscope help even more?... I would probably have little to no idea what I was looking at; how to interpret the images!]

   On the 29th I added 3 grams of KOH to the remaining ~300 cc of solution. So per 100 cc (roughly):

90 cc HOH
10 cc CH3OH
1.25 g KOH (5 times as much)

   The pH test strips I usually use have one serious weakness: The pH 5 color looks about the same as the 12. And that's what it showed. So I tried the two other types I have. One merely indicated it was alkaline rather than acid, so I took the first reading as being 12. Specifically for alkalinity pH test strips with three different "spots" on them seemed to indicate it was about pH 13. 13 was a bit higher than I had intended to go, but within limits. Now there was not only CH3OH, but a higher concentration of KOH, one that by itself would have raised the pH to 14, or at least very close to it.

   I cleaned the Mn'trode and the Zn'trode with the powder inside the two plates in varsol, rinsed off the plastic pieces and case, and put it together. This time at least I understood that it wouldn't be good for much because the Mn was doubtless contaminated with zinc oxide, changing the crytal structure.
   The voltage was very low, only a little over 100 mV. I put it on 1.7 V charge. It drew 200 mA but soon dropped under 100 and down to 40 within an hour. Testing over the day showed the performance was dismal and it didn't hold charge well at all. Evidently even if the electrolyte was good, new electrodes (or at least a new Mn'trode) were needed.

Haida Gwaii, BC Canada