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Author: Subject: Recovering useable components from a car battery
spotlightman1234
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sad.gif posted on 10-6-2011 at 15:46
Recovering useable components from a car battery


So I am pretty well know as the guy who like to "dumpster dive" with my friends. I regularly find many useful things (like aquarium pumps, jars, etc...). Well a couple of days ago I found an improperly disposed of car battery :(. I have been looking for one for quite a while now since one can get useful chemicals from it like lead and sulfuric acid, not to mention the potentially useable lead dioxide electrodes :D.
Anyway I carefully retrieved it from the trash and brought the battery home. I then proceded (wearing full protective gear) to empty the battery of acid and throughly wash out and neutralize the inside of the battery. I didn't bother dealing with the sulfuric acid because I can just buy it as drain cleaner for pretty cheap, so I just neutralized it with NaHCO3. I now have an empty car battery that is full of lead and lead dioxide that I want to retrieve. One problem though, I can't figure out for the life of me how to open it :mad:. Has anyone else on this board ever done anything like this and can tell me how to open the battery or If it's even worth it? Any help would be much appreciated. These things are built like mini fortresses!

tl;dr: How would I open up a common car battery and it is even worth it?
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bob800
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[*] posted on 10-6-2011 at 16:01


Here's a fake youtube video which involves getting "1,000 AA batteries!" from a car battery, which includes a segment on dis-assembly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_8n2Qgguto.
(The whole part about the AA's is obviously a hoax, but I think the dis-assembly is real).
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spotlightman1234
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[*] posted on 10-6-2011 at 16:13


Quote: Originally posted by bob800  
Here's a fake youtube video which involves getting "1,000 AA batteries!" from a car battery, which includes a segment on dis-assembly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_8n2Qgguto.
(The whole part about the AA's is obviously a hoax, but I think the dis-assembly is real).
Ya I tried the screwdriver method of just prying off the lid, but that did not work at all, it did how ever bend some plastic :/.
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spotlightman1234
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[*] posted on 10-6-2011 at 16:16


Also I don't think the disassembly is real because when it shows him pouring out the batteries the lid doesn't have any holes where you would pour in replacement acid. The battery is mostly just for show in the video :(.
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gnitseretni
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[*] posted on 10-6-2011 at 17:24


Perhaps use an electric wood saw and set it to cut real shallow so you'll only cut through the plastic.
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Bezaleel
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[*] posted on 24-11-2011 at 19:11


In case you are still interested, here's a picture of how i did it.

IMG_6919_small.JPG - 130kB
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[*] posted on 24-11-2011 at 19:20


You can always just look how a car battery is made, coz you can see the essambly do a battery and what's inside but it will look different compared to a new one

http://www.batterycouncil.org/LeadAcidBatteries/HowaBatteryi...

I don't know if this site is any help, I'm rushing a bit cz I don't like using 3G on iPad, uses p a lot of Internet browsing the web




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Twospoons
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[*] posted on 24-11-2011 at 20:36


There's the messy, toxic, environmentally unfriendly way : put the whole battery on top of a forced air coal or charcoal fire. The plastic burns off, the lead melts out, and the lead dioxide get reduced by the carbon and carbon monoxide to lead metal. You end up with a puddle of Pb under a pile of poisonous slag.
Not neighbor friendly.



[Edited on 25-11-2011 by Twospoons]




Helicopter: "helico" -> spiral, "pter" -> with wings
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Mr. Wizard
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[*] posted on 24-11-2011 at 22:46


When you recover components from a lead acid battery you can maximize the lead and acid recovery by fully charging the battery first. A Charged cell consists of a lead alloy framework with a lead dioxide anode filling, and a charged cathode consisting of a lead alloy framework with sponge lead. Dumping a fully charged battery into a plastic bucket puts most of the sulfate into sulfuric acid, not as lead sulfate. After dumping the acid, refill with distilled water and try charging some more, just to rinse out the acid and dump the battery again. Now the battery will not give off as much acid fumes if melted. I agree melting a battery is a very unfriendly thing to do, but it's not as bad when you remove the acid and sulfate.

One problem is a battery that won't take a charge. This is no big surprise, as it is in the trash for a reason. The solution is to isolate the reason. If the battery will not conduct any current, it is most likely open internally. A lead jumper between the cells has melted or broken. Hook up a battery charger to the plus terminal and hook up the negative terminal of the charger to a long steel nail. Starting at the opposite end of the battery from the + plus side, gently probe the plates with the nail. If you get a current flow you have located the open cell, if not keep moving toward the plus side one cell at a time. If it doesn't take current when you get all the way to the plus terminal, that is the bad cell. Switch the plus side of the charger to the minus side of the battery and try the same testing over again. The idea is to bypass the open cell and convert lead sulfate to lead and lead dioxide and sulfuric acid. It doesn't really matter which way you charge it for this purpose. The main point is to keep the steel probe as NEGative so it won't corrode away, and keep PLUS on the lead sulfate.

Obviously a shorted or open cell will not be charged or changed by this method, but the others might .

I have smelled a battery smelter in illegal operation, and the stench covered many blocks of a downtown industrial area where I worked. The guy had built a rotary kiln type unit that used the batteries as fuel, while running a current of air up the unit. It actually burned pretty clean except for the sulfuric acid and SO2 laden smoke. :o which was pretty hard to ignore. He ran it after hours but still drew the attention of the authorities.
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 05:42


Quote: Originally posted by Twospoons  
There's the messy, toxic, environmentally unfriendly way : put the whole battery on top of a forced air coal or charcoal fire. The plastic burns off, the lead melts out, and the lead dioxide get reduced by the carbon and carbon monoxide to lead metal. You end up with a puddle of Pb under a pile of poisonous slag.
Not neighbor friendly.



[Edited on 25-11-2011 by Twospoons]


That won't work. There's an antimony alloy inside, too. Melting everything will just make a mixture.
The electrode is an antimony alloy mesh stuffed with lead sponge. Old car batteries tend to have their lead sponges oxidized or stuffed with lead sulphate crystals (No#1 reason for car batteries failing).

Anyhow, I find the antimony tempting. The rest is junk... except the plastic pieces that hold the electrodes, as they can serve the same useful purpose in a homemade battery.




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Mr. Wizard
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 09:17


Quote: Originally posted by Endimion17  
Quote: Originally posted by Twospoons  
There's the messy, toxic, environmentally unfriendly way : put the whole battery on top of a forced air coal or charcoal fire. The plastic burns off, the lead melts out, and the lead dioxide get reduced by the carbon and carbon monoxide to lead metal. You end up with a puddle of Pb under a pile of poisonous slag.
Not neighbor friendly.



[Edited on 25-11-2011 by Twospoons]


That won't work. There's an antimony alloy inside, too. Melting everything will just make a mixture.
The electrode is an antimony alloy mesh stuffed with lead sponge. Old car batteries tend to have their lead sponges oxidized or stuffed with lead sulphate crystals (No#1 reason for car batteries failing).

Anyhow, I find the antimony tempting. The rest is junk... except the plastic pieces that hold the electrodes, as they can serve the same useful purpose in a homemade battery.


Sure it will work! The truth is the bigger the pile of batteries and fuel (wood or charcoal) the better it will work. The lead alloy will puddle and collect at the bottom. A pit dug underneath will facilitate the puddle of lead and the separation of non lead junk. Nobody claims the product will be pure lead, as it will contain antimony, calcium, tin, and probably other impurities. There may even be chunks of charcoal and rocks in it. This isn't rocket science, but it would be a nasty mess.

I have melted many hundreds of pounds of lead and lead alloys, and with a few simple tools and planning melting a battery would be a very doable project, although a very ,cough ,cough, nasty one.

On a side note, an early reference to purifying galena , a lead ore, ( PbS ) recommended using aluminum to reduce the lead. The author mentioned using an excess of aluminum to allow a layer of molten aluminum over the lead that was formed. He noted the lead button formed under these conditions was very soft and pure, and the aluminum had absorbed all the impurities of the lead. I have considered melting some aluminum and pouring in some zinc contaminated alloy through the aluminum to test this. Has anyone else heard of this or done it?
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 10:01


This was standard practice in Western junk yards a few decades ago.
The batteries were sliced up by a suitable oik that was paid very little.
When the acid had drained off the mess was piled in to a pit and set on fire.
The rubber formed most of the fuel and a huge cloud of black smoke with lead particles and other nasties spread around the area.
When cool the shit was broken off the top and the lump of lead in the bottom was recovered, remelted and finally cast in to ingots for sale as scrap.
The contamination is horrendous and there are old scrap yard sites that no one will touch as they are contaminated with lead, waste oil and god alone knows what.
I suspect that this cheap and cheerful method is still employed in some places.
You can do the same with cable. Make it up into nice log sized bundles, get a fire going and chuck them on like logs. Watch the black shit fumes roll away as the plastic burns and fish out the clean copper wire for smelting and sale.
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 11:02


Squirrel:

It's the kind of recycling that gives recycling a bad name.

I've seen some horrendous cases of e-waste 'recycling' in rural Chinese backwaters, where very primitive methods for recovering gold, solder and copper lead to massive contamination and turning a habitat into a moonscape into the 'bargain'! Truly shocking... :o




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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 12:19


Quote: Originally posted by Mr. Wizard  
Sure it will work! The truth is the bigger the pile of batteries and fuel (wood or charcoal) the better it will work. The lead alloy will puddle and collect at the bottom. A pit dug underneath will facilitate the puddle of lead and the separation of non lead junk. Nobody claims the product will be pure lead, as it will contain antimony, calcium, tin, and probably other impurities. There may even be chunks of charcoal and rocks in it. This isn't rocket science, but it would be a nasty mess.

I have melted many hundreds of pounds of lead and lead alloys, and with a few simple tools and planning melting a battery would be a very doable project, although a very ,cough ,cough, nasty one.

On a side note, an early reference to purifying galena , a lead ore, ( PbS ) recommended using aluminum to reduce the lead. The author mentioned using an excess of aluminum to allow a layer of molten aluminum over the lead that was formed. He noted the lead button formed under these conditions was very soft and pure, and the aluminum had absorbed all the impurities of the lead. I have considered melting some aluminum and pouring in some zinc contaminated alloy through the aluminum to test this. Has anyone else heard of this or done it?


It will work in the sense that everything will melt and a horrific contamination of the area will occur.
It won't work if one needs lead. It only produces a pool of alloy filled with chunks of char, rubber and plastics.

I'd rather separate the electrodes by hand and then try to obtain antimony. It makes more sense to me, as someone that seeks for pure stuff.


Be careful with aluminium and adding just about anything to molten metals. I was once almost blinded and disfigured as a child by someone's casting attempt because violent reaction do occur.


Regarding the copper cables, rednecks do it all the time. It's a common thing.

[Edited on 25-11-2011 by Endimion17]




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ScienceSquirrel
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 16:19


Quote: Originally posted by Endimion17  
Regarding the copper cables, rednecks do it all the time. It's a common thing.


So it is, but in the almost civilised bits of the west. not the USA :D, it is illegal like mating with your sistah! :o
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 17:02


Quote: Originally posted by ScienceSquirrel  
Quote: Originally posted by Endimion17  
Regarding the copper cables, rednecks do it all the time. It's a common thing.


So it is, but in the almost civilised bits of the west. not the USA :D, it is illegal like mating with your sistah! :o


It's illegal pretty much everywhere (not sure about some of the third world countries, though), but rednecks are a cosmopolitan species, and share similar behaviour wherever found.




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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 17:24


Quote: Originally posted by Endimion17  


It's illegal pretty much everywhere (not sure about some of the third world countries, though), but rednecks are a cosmopolitan species, and share similar behaviour wherever found.


Touche
However I must say in my defence that I thought rednecks were only cosmopolitan if you have never lived outside Kentucky! :)

[Edited on 26-11-2011 by ScienceSquirrel]
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[*] posted on 25-11-2011 at 18:14


Quote: Originally posted by Bezaleel  
In case you are still interested, here's a picture of how i did it.



that how i took it apart an old battery separation of an alloy of antimony and lead now thats a hard one
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Bezaleel
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[*] posted on 26-11-2011 at 17:36


Taking one of the cathodes, and dissolving it in 22% nitric acid (allow the major NOx vapors to escape first, then reflux for a while), yields a mixture of an essentially clear solution with some grey gunk that will not dissolve in whatever I tried. The mass of the grey mess is about 7%.

I wonder what that is composed of. As a matter of fact, I'd expect the antimony to be in it, but in that case, I'd also expect the grey stuff to dissolve in concentrated HCl, which it doesn't.

Calcining some of it, and mixing it with HCl, yielded some minor bubbling, the formation of a very fine black powder, and the remainder not reacting at all.

Any ideas what the grey stuff is?


Besided, the heavy metal remnants of the battery (including the anodes) went to a recycling facility.
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Mr. Wizard
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[*] posted on 26-11-2011 at 19:59


My guess for the gray gunk is lead sulfate.
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