How do I make a battery from a drinks can?

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Offline thedoc

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How do I make a battery from a drinks can?
« on: 15/07/2012 11:30:01 »
Hannah asked the Naked Scientists:

I am making my own battery from aluminum cans and a renewable electrolyte. I am confused at present time because it is a common fact that the cathode and anode should not touch (in my case, copper and aluminum).

In my battery, the aluminum can is the cathode and since I will connect it to another battery (series), I shall need a wire.

So my question is, can I connect the two batteries using copper wires considering that the copper wire will touch the aluminum cans?

I am really new to all of this.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/07/2012 11:30:01 by _system »


Offline evan_au

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Re: How do I make a battery from a drinks can?
« Reply #1 on: 28/07/2012 09:35:57 »
You can use insulated copper wire so that it will not "short circuit" to the aluminum can, with just the ends bared to make contact with the copper anode.

While you can use the copper wire itself as the anode, the cell will deliver more current if the anode has more surface area (like a fine mesh), so the reaction can proceed faster. Some form of porous spacer, made out of insulating material is often used to stop the anode and cathode from touching.

If you are connecting cells in series to make a battery, you will need to connect the copper anode of one cell to the aluminium cathode of the next cell. However, aluminum has a thin, transparent insulating layer of aluminium oxide, so it's really hard to make reliable electrical contact with aluminum.

Also, in an electrical cell, normally one of the electrodes get eaten away. The liquid electrolyte may be replaceable, but also plan for the electrodes to be a disposable component. Ensure you operate the battery in a plastic container to prevent chemical spills.