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Peter.
03-28-2011, 03:31 PM
Dismantling an old structure today I found these old things rotting in the basement, been there since the 80's by the labels found. We're getting a specialist contractor to dispose of them but in the meantime I've requested the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) to move them so I can continue work and my H&S manager is looking into that. I suggested acid-resistant boots, apron, gauntlets, faceshield but my company is taking advice.

http://peterrimmer.myby.co.uk/images/batteries1.jpg

http://peterrimmer.myby.co.uk/images/batteries2.jpg

They aren't actually leaking despite the title except for the discharge you can see on top which I guess is from years of venting. I need to seprate them and move them a short distance to a COSHH (control of substance hazardous to health) store ready for collection.
Has anyone handled these kind of things before? I'm thinking of just cropping the leads, un-bolting the bars and simply carrying them one at a time wearing the acid-proof PPE.

Footing is good and each cell looks to be a comfortable weight to carry, the area is well ventilated. What about the fungus on top, I'm guessing that is also quite hazardous especially if hydrated?

As I said, my company is taking advice but I thought I'd ask here for advice/opinions too.

DFMiller
03-28-2011, 03:51 PM
Peter,
Since there are 6 of them I would hazard a guess that they are wet Lead Acid battery strung together to form a 12V ( 6x2V) string.
The fuzz on the top is corrosion from leaking stem seals.
If I were at home I would neutralize the fuzz with baking soda and water.
But since its in a Industrial setting in you area. I would walk away and let the pro's deal with it.


Dave

flathead4
03-28-2011, 03:54 PM
They look pretty defunct but I think the first thing I would go in there with is a multimeter just to see if there was any voltage left. If so you will have to take precautions with those conductors. Wouldn't take much H2 and spark to ruin your day.

I've only ever cleaned up car batteries and that was with baking soda and a garden hose, so I'm no help in that regard.:)

Peter.
03-28-2011, 04:14 PM
Good idea - I'll take a meter in tomorrow, but I doubt very much there's any charge left in any cell unless they were a type capable of holding up for many years as they have been disused a long time.

I won't be moving these without an approved method I can assure you. Hopefully we can get them removed directly from in situ before work progresses into the area then I don't have the problem at all.

I also found the old battery charger which is an interesting-looking piece.

http://peterrimmer.myby.co.uk/images/charger.jpg

Black_Moons
03-28-2011, 05:10 PM
apron and gloves and boots are a great idea. If just because acid + cloths = little holes when you wash em.

Face shield is a little overkill, but then, I would'nt wanna be without one *just incase*.

I would recommend washing the apron down afterwards, Usally when you carry something it can't help but brush up against your chest area, And afterwards you could get secondary transfer to something else.

Random fact you did'nt wanna know and don't wanna ask how I know first hand: Sulfuric acid makes super sour candys seem like suger in compairson.

Also using your toung to test if that tingleing feeling on your hand is sulfuric acid or not is not a great idea. :P

winchman
03-28-2011, 05:16 PM
Maybe you could contact the manufacturer. Looks like they're back in business.

http://www.ukbatteries.co.uk/brands/tungstone

squirrel
03-28-2011, 05:34 PM
Good thing you are not in the USA, here they would have to core drill the floor and look for leakage and what ever else they can find. Looks like if they charged you less then $10,000 USD to remove and clean it up you will be doing good.

The Fixer
03-28-2011, 05:44 PM
I think you are over-reacting with them. Cut the wires connecting them short, throw a HD plastic garbage bag over them and pack them out. Really no big deal! Call up your local recycler and find out where to drop em off.
There's literally millions of these in the country, at least one for every vehicle....
jmho

edit: If they are dead the "acid" should actually be water, so the only hazardous material will be the lead inside.

squirrel
03-28-2011, 05:50 PM
I think you are over-reacting with them. Cut the wires connecting them short, throw a HD plastic garbage bag over them and pack them out. Really no big deal! Call up your local recycler and find out where to drop em off.
There's literally millions of these in the country, at least one for every vehicle....
jmho

edit: If they are dead the "acid" should actually be water, so the only hazardous material will be the lead inside.
That sounds pretty true, once you get an enviromental company involved it IS WORSE THAN LEAVING THE KEY TO THE HEN HOUSE WITH THE FOX. They are obligated to turn you in if you tell them to hit the road because of the cost.

SGW
03-28-2011, 06:04 PM
I doubt they are "obliged to turn you in." Tell 'em you're getting an estimate from another disposal company...how are they to know what you actually do?

Peter.
03-28-2011, 06:11 PM
Thankfully, I don't have to are about the cost as we are not picking up the bill. I do care about my fellow workers though and I have to show due dilligence in that and in the disposal. For now, I just need to move them aside.

rohart
03-28-2011, 07:03 PM
Splash some of that acid on your head and rinse off. Great for removing the dandruff !

No, seriously, as one who has had battery acid in his hair (rinsed withing fifteen minutes), and had a battery explode into his eyes (rinsed within fifteen seconds), I think you''re making a bit of a meal out of this.

You couldn't electrocute a flea with 2 volts, and once one conductor is cut there's no current pathway. The fuzz you see will only be faintly acidic, and the plates are probably bent anyway, shorting them out. By the way, if they aren't, they'd make a nice storage pack.

And thanks for reminding me - I've got a battery on charge in the garage, and I don't like to leave it on all night. I'd forgotten about it.

wierdscience
03-28-2011, 07:17 PM
Geez,I would do the same thing with those as I did with the pile I got rid of last week.Chunk them in the back of the truck in a plastic barrel and head for the scrapers.Didn't even wear gloves doing it.

14 dead ones brought me $70:D

Black_Moons
03-28-2011, 07:20 PM
I don't think sulfuric acid is toxic to plant life (in small doses), And the heavy metals should be rather safely contained inside the battery, So I don't see why any clean up would be needed other then some baking soda and water.

Acid rain is bad because enough can drop the soil PH untill aluminum dissolves (PH4.0~) and then everything dies. Less just adds sulfur to the soil. Little acid in a small area will eventualy dilute as long as more acid isent contiously added (like acid rain)

wierdscience
03-28-2011, 07:27 PM
Oh,forgot to add,from the looks of those batteries they are probably dry as a Popcorn fart inside water probably left the scene a long time ago.

Oh,and if I were there the charger would be going home with me:D

bollie7
03-28-2011, 08:05 PM
Old glass battery cases, cleaned out, are fairly popular here in Aus with the arty crafty crowd at garage sales, and markets etc. I had a couple a few years ago, (they were about twice the height of the ones shown here) that I stuck in a garage sale I was having with a "make an offer" sign on them. Didn't think I'd get much for them, ended up getting $20 each for them. Could have sold more if I'd had any. Might be a bit of xmas party money in all those shown here.
bollie7

danlb
03-28-2011, 08:11 PM
Oh,forgot to add,from the looks of those batteries they are probably dry as a Popcorn fart inside water probably left the scene a long time ago.




There are varying levels of water in there. The second from the right looks like the plates are still covered. The one on the right is 2/3 full. It looks like they have been serviced sometime in the last year or so.

These should be fairly safe to handle. The voltage ( as stated ) is only 2 volts across any single cell. BUT... never assume that the water is not acid. Never assume that you won't make a mistake and short the one good cell. I'd go for the face mask and gloves and all the rest too.

Dan

Bill736
03-28-2011, 08:33 PM
Yes, definitely grab the battery charger and take it home. Older battery chargers without " automatic" charge rates and shutoffs are in demand. As for lead acid batteries, if that's what they are, they are worth around $7 or $8 dollars per around here. I usually just call one of the roving junk collectors who stop by my property, and they take batteries and old appliances and scrap metal away for free. ( Actually, I hord most of the scrap metal, but the batteries and appliances are too much trouble to bother with.) And after the battery acid turns to water, the water freezes in the winter, the case breaks open, and makes a mess. I do understand, however, that businesses and professionals usually have to deal with scrap on a more accountable, and expensive, level. Good luck !

DavidP
03-28-2011, 08:36 PM
It looks like you've found a set of old Edison style battery's ...
They could be quite collectable today with individual empty glass bottles sold on Ebay ...
They were pretty common in the early 1900's ... and some modern versions were still being made up until the early 1970's ... mainly for railroad uses ... such as signalling equipement ...
Those battery's can last forever ... I've heard of some lasting 40 or 50 years ...
If you were to rinse them off baking soda and water and top them up with water ... they would probably still work ... :rolleyes:
There is still a company in China making various sizes of the Edison style battery ... with a white plastic lower case ...

A link to a picture of the new version with spec's ... as well as a picture of the older version at the bottom of the page ...
If they are Edison style battery's ... the chemistry is probably a lot safer than a lead acid battery ...

http://www.beutilityfree.com/Electric/Ni-Fe

KIMFAB
03-28-2011, 08:52 PM
I have handled lots of these over the years. What you have is stationary batteries, not car batteries. The case and the insides are different.
The first set is probably junk but the second set that appears to be 24 volts might be able to be reused.

A lot of recycle places don't take them because of the extra metals in the lead plates and the type of plastic in the case.

The fuzzy stuff washes off with a baking soda mix and the cases are excellent for handling nasty stuff as for use as pickling or anodizing or for pc board etching.
Wear old clothes and a faceshield, gloves are good, nothing to panic about but be careful for sparks when disconnecting the wires, an explosion is messy.

J Tiers
03-28-2011, 11:29 PM
What I would probably do is to neutralize the acid, and disassemble the lot and scrap it..... Might keep the jars..... they are definite collectables, I think I still have a couple here....

That type is very repairable and refurbishable...... although I use enclosed deep cycle myself, and wouldn't want any like that just because they are a hassle. The nasty-looking corrosion product is probably less dangerous than dropping one on your foot, hazard-wise..... The "authorities" naturally have lots of reasons why all the above is not so............ Sigh....

So, you, as a business, are pretty much obligated to play it straight, and call the "moon suits" to deal with it, just as if it were something actually dangerous.

lbhsbz
03-29-2011, 01:06 AM
Snip the leads and wheel them out on a hand truck...take 'em home with you, bottle the acid and sell
It as drain cleaner, the scrap the lead....probably enough lead in there
To pay for nice new tooling. They're just batteries. Wash your hands when you're done playing with them. rubber gloves wouldn't be a bad idea

darryl
03-29-2011, 02:56 AM
That second set does look like it may be salvageable. If it's nickel iron, it may have decades of life left in it. It does not look like lead-acid to me. But the fact that it's only 6 cells would make it only about 8 or 9 volts if ni-fe.

I've just been reading about ni-fe battery chemistry. I'm impressed with the numbers, not so much the discharge rate but the lifetime- 20 to 70 years, and the extremely forgiving charge/discharge cycle.

Then there's potassium ion, with a host of good characteristics. Move over, li-po, pi is here:cool:

Circlip
03-29-2011, 03:43 AM
You couldn't electrocute a flea with 2 volts, and once one conductor is cut there's no current pathway

Yep, but if there's any sort of charge left, you can get a good enough arc to do a bit of damage to yourself from a short. Ever seen the effect of a lump of wire wool on a PP3?

Regards Ian

winchman
03-29-2011, 09:07 AM
edit: If they are dead the "acid" should actually be water, so the only hazardous material will be the lead inside.

I don't think that's true. The specific gravity will drop some, but the sulfuric acid/water electrolyte will still be acidic and reactive. Some recyclers reclaim the electrolyte in the recycling process, and send it on for use in new batteries.

J Tiers
03-29-2011, 09:17 PM
The general reaction inside the lead-acid battery is

PbO2 + Pb +2H2SO4 <> 2PbSO4 +2H2O

According to this, then, a discharged battery would have water as an "electrolyte", with other constituents represented according to their solubilities in water.

So long as there is some free acid in the water, the cell will have a voltage, and if there is no voltage, the cell contains essentially water. It is an equilibrium, so somewhere there is presumably a trace of unreacted material according to the equilibrium under the conditions existing, in this case in the basement.

Lead has a solubility in water, so the cells would not be an appropriate source of drinking water......... but it will be water...... not some acid solution, if the cells are discharged. The solubilities of anything that has fallen in or belongs in the cell will determine how pure the water is.

Those cells appear quite likely to be fully discharged....

Black_Moons
03-29-2011, 09:42 PM
I believe fully discharged cells still contain some sulfuric acid because the plates get covered in non reactive sulfur before the sulfuric acid is exhausted.

lakeside53
03-29-2011, 09:49 PM
How do you charge a dead-flat battery if all you have is pure water between the cells?

J Tiers
03-29-2011, 10:59 PM
I believe fully discharged cells still contain some sulfuric acid because the plates get covered in non reactive sulfur before the sulfuric acid is exhausted.

Citation?

the specific reference I used for the reaction, btw, is "Storage Batteries", G. W. Vinal, Wiley, 1940... but there are many sources for the info. I just knew where that particular book was in the library upstairs.

I believe you mean "sulfate", as in lead sulfate, not elemental sulfur..... And in general, lead sulfate is far from non-reactive, it is part of the reaction, as seen in the chemical equation above.

If the plates were actually "covered in non-reactive sulfur", the battery could not be re-charged, but that is not so.

It is possible for the "sulfate" to become "sequestered", or crystallized in a place not accessible to current, in which case it is difficult to bring it back into solution, But that reduces the total acidity of the solution............ it does not "trap acid in solution"....

The lowest energy state is discharged totally, so you can bet that a battery left to its own devices will end up 100% discharged. By leakage and "self discharge" if by no other means.

A 100% discharged battery is difficult to bring back.... water has some small ionic content, but until some of the sulfate has gone back into solution as acid, the current you can get into the cells is minimal.... once you start getting it in solution, charge current will build rapidly.

winchman
03-30-2011, 04:34 AM
It's my understanding that the amount of electrolyte in a battery is much more than what's needed to complete the conversion of the plates according to the above reaction. Therefore, the electrolyte will retain a significant amount of acidity even when the battery is fully discharged.

Black_Moons
03-30-2011, 04:40 AM
Citation: http://itacanet.org/eng/elec/battery/battery.pdf
Page 6, Lists SG of verious batterys at verious levels of discharge, None of them reach 1.0 SG at 0% charge. (1.0 sg being the sg of pure water)

One battery does get kind of close, So it appears not all batterys have a great excess of sulfuric acid. But they definately CAN have an excess compaired to the amount of plate area to react with.

http://www.buchanan1.net/lead_acid.shtml
Yet another list of SG verus charge state, lowest is 1.050 long after 0% charge state.

Page that mentions diffrent types of lead acid batterys typicaly start with diffrent SG's, and that initial SG alters the batterys life/discharge characteristics
http://giantbatteryco.com/GLOSSARY/Specific.Gravity-Industrial.Batteries.html

J Tiers
03-30-2011, 08:45 AM
As long as there is acid remaining, there is activity remaining, voltage will NOT be actually 'zero", and the battery WILL continue to self discharge.........

And your battery data, such as the second link CLEARLY SHOWS that........ IT IS RIGHT IN THE THIRD COLUMN.... (I have had to add the punctuation to separate the columns due to board data compression)

Percent Hydrometer Unloaded
charge...........reading............voltage
100............1.248................12.53
75.............1.193................12.20
50.............1.143................11.90
25.............1.103................11.66
0..............1.083................11.54

THEY ADMIT that their "100% discharged" battery has 11.54 volts open circuit...... in other words they have arbitrarily said that is "total discharge", when it is perfectly obvious that activity remains...... Their point is that you shouldn't go below that if you want to use the battery again.

The info from manufacturers is generally for "useful life" type situations.... i.e. when they say it is at zero charge, they mean you can't get any more power out in any useful way. Obviously the thing still has plenty of voltage, it is not CLOSE to a true 100% "gone" state.... But the energy content remaining is very nearly zip, they are right about that. And if you discharge further, you will very likely ruin the battery by allowing sulfation, etc.

What they DO NOT mean is that there is no further activity, that the battery will remain in that "frozen state" for an indefinite life in decades......or years, or probably even months. As it sits, the remaining acid will find things to react with, evidently including the terminals in the case of those batteries in the basement....

And those results are for modern batteries. "Jar" cells are not equivalent to modern high density batteries... they are an old type of long-life battery, usually NOT containing the highest acid concentrations (high acid concentration is not conducive to long life), and not having the newest anti-sulfation techniques.....

The interesting thing will NOT be the SG, but the PH of the remaining "stuff" as it sits. Remember that the SG of the solution does NOT indicate only acid. other things, salt residues of reaction, and anything else that is dissolved in the water will be a factor in SG.

And after a decade of an unsealed "jar" cell sitting in the basement of an abandoned building, it is rather unlikely that whatever is left is an acid in anything but name, if even that.

If the cells were sealed, they would not have grown a fuzz on the terminals......

Anyone who thinks that a cell after years untended in the basement with dist and crud covering the terminals will contain any significant charge is fooling themselves, believing that they have solved the energy storage problem, and have an "honored" seat next to Pons and Fleischman.

Now, we have the OP's word that these things have sat dirty and unused for a long time.... if that is not true, then there is no telling.

Peter.
03-30-2011, 12:26 PM
Well, I measured the voltages today. The larger ones with the glass gases are showing ~0.01v, the smaller plastic-cased ones are showing ~0.15v.

I forgot to mention there are a large number of smaller dry-cell batteries too. Some round cylinder and some square.

The round ones are labelled 1.4v and a broken one shows the internals to be small grey disc/rod embedded in a black crystalline compound, then a thin polystyrene layer inside a thin metallic case covered in card. The larger square section ones I haven't investigated internally but they date from the late '70s and are approx 4-5" square and 7-8" tall.

vincemulhollon
03-30-2011, 01:15 PM
The round ones are labelled 1.4v and a broken one shows the internals to be small grey disc/rod embedded in a black crystalline compound, then a thin polystyrene layer inside a thin metallic case covered in card. The larger square section ones I haven't investigated internally but they date from the late '70s and are approx 4-5" square and 7-8" tall.

Check here:

http://www.prc68.com/I/No6.shtml

Let me guess the round ones are exactly 2.5 inches in diameter and exactly half a foot tall?

You can get big money from antique collectors who want to rip the cases open, take the innards out, replace the innards with modern alkaline or NiMH rechargeables or whatever.

As for the power etc take a look at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc-carbon_battery

Even the worrywarts at wiki think a ZnC battery is pretty harmless.

Peter.
03-30-2011, 01:54 PM
Yup Vince that looks similar to what I have, though mine are drab card with no pretty packaging :)