[time-nuts] OT Gel Cell question

Neville Michie namichie at gmail.com
Mon Jul 28 01:59:12 EDT 2014

To clear up the point,
lead sulphate is very much more soluble in water than sulphuric acid,
and when batteries get flat all the sulphuric acid is reacted leaving
only water. That is why no current will flow when trying to charge them.
It is all well documented, see: 
Vinal.G.W. (1945) Storage Batteries,
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York Pp. 464

The sulphate is more soluble at higher temperature, and the daily thermal cycling
of an uncharged battery adds to the damage.

There are many popular myths and partial truths abroad, largely, I guess,
because the study of batteries is in few current engineering courses.
Magic additives to restore dead batteries have been around for 100 years,
but none of them are effective.
The only trick I have seen was an old guy who heated car batteries in an oven,
I never found out how long or how hot, he made a living reselling them 
with a money back six months guarantee.
Neville Michie

On 28/07/2014, at 1:59 PM, Chuck Harris wrote:

> A small disagreement on a couple of points....
> Lead sulfate does not dissolve (in the normal battery chemistry),
> and does not go all over the place. It forms at the lead and the
> lead oxide plates, during discharge, and there it stays
> (unless it breaks off) until you charge the cell.  It is the
> electrolytic cell action that allows the lead sulfate to be
> converted back into lead metal, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid.
> Everyone wishes lead sulfate could be dissolved safely, as this
> could be a way of recovering batteries that have been overly
> discharged.
> Lots of snake oil remedies have been created that tout to do just
> that... things like lime juice, ETDA, adding more sulfuric acid...
> AFAIK, none of them really work.
> Shorting in a wet (flooded) lead acid battery happens because the
> charging/discharging action causes the creation and destruction of
> lead sulfate, and because the lead sulfate is less dense than the
> lead and lead oxide it replaces, it flexes the plates.  The flexing
> causes some of the lead sulfate to break free of the plates, and
> drop to the bottom of the cell.  Because energy density is
> important in a lead acid battery, the manufacturer wastes as little
> space in the battery case as possible by putting the plates as
> close to the bottom of the battery "jar" as it dares.  This allows
> the lead flakes to build up on the bottom until they reach the
> level of the plates and short them out.
> The gel cells, and glass mat cells short because the lead dendrites
> that sometimes grow as a result of charging/discharging, pierce the
> separator and short the plates directly.
> -Chuck Harris
> Neville Michie wrote:
>> Hi,
>> Lead acid cells have lead supports carrying lead oxide and lead metal active material
>> in an electrolyte of sulphuric acid.
>> When they discharge, the sulphuric acid electrolyte is reacted with the oxides and metal
>> to form lead sulphate and the concentration of the acid falls, that is why garages
>> used to check batteries with a hydrometer to measure the electrolyte concentration.
>> At the same time the terminal voltage drops and the internal resistance rises,
>> when the concentration of the electrolyte gets very low, the lead sulphate becomes
>> soluble and will re-deposit all over the battery. With gel cells the electrolyte can
>> be completely absorbed making the battery resistance infinitely high.
>> If you can get some current to flow, you may be lucky enough to get the battery to
>> reform some electrolyte, conduct some more, and eventually charge.
>> However, when flat the lead sulphate dissolves and redeposits all over the battery,
>> and when recharged will convert back to lead and lead oxide, often most inconveniently
>> bridging the plates to a short circuit.
>> The lesson is to not let the battery ever get flat.
>> Lead acid batteries have some very good features.
>> The terminal voltage rises as the concentration of the acid increases. So a constant voltage will
>> charge a cell, and current stops flowing when the electrolyte reaches its proper concentration.
>> The catch is, when you have a battery of several cells, if one cell gets weak, the others will be overcharged
>> causing gassing and over concentration of the electrolyte.
>> There is a judicious voltage that causes an acceptably low rate of gassing
>> (the oxygen hydrogen catalytically recombining) that will keep the charges of cells equalised.
>> But it only takes one total discharge event to cause enough leakage in one cell
>> to bring about failure.
>> Lead acid batteries are also environmentally excellent.
>> They consist of nothing but pure lead and sulphuric acid and water.
>> Sulphuric acid is not volatile so you can make batteries out of old batteries
>> forever, recycling the acid, lead and water.
>> If made on a large scale they are also very efficient (99.9% +) electrically.
>> cheers,
>> Neville Michie
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