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Friday, July 28, 2017

Battery Life

Posted by Admin on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

The Swiss Inventor Eduard Haas

The Swiss Inventor Eduard Haas

My relation to batteries has turned a bit special when I met the decorated Swiss inventor Eduard Haas some years back. He had created and patented a battery (Swiss Patent No. CH 690 081 issued on 04/14/2000) consisting of sheets of carbon (graphite or compounded carbon dust) and magnesium that produced a pretty steady current when water was poured in. Ideally a little bit of table salt was added to enhance the electrolytic properties. A cell produced an electric potential difference (voltage) of about 1.5 volts regardless of it’s size, but the current (amperage) increased with size. Different values were read with different types of electrolyte used. The name “battery” is basically inaccurate for this device, as the term “battery” just describes an array of several cells and in general linguistic usage a battery describes a device that delivers power until it exhausts and needs to be disposed or recharged. Some battery types need to be primed by the manufacturer prior to use in order to be able to hold a charge – his invention produced electricity instantly when a liquid electrolyte was added. The proper designation for such a device is “galvanic element”, but this distinction is rather unimportant for the layman, as the device similar to any ordinary battery delivers direct current at a steady rate until either the electrolyte solution gets saturated with magnesium oxide and the current slowly decreases until the device goes off, or until one of the electrodes are used up. In the Haas cell not only water would work as an electrolyte, but also fruit juice, beer, sea water or other liquids (even urine would do the job).

Assembly of electrodes

Assembly of electrodes

The advantages of his cell over conventional lead acid batteries is obvious: the elements used show no harmful toxic properties to the environment and can easily be refitted (just a new set of magnesium plates would have to be inserted, as the carbon plates do not easily waste away) and the cell can be refreshed in an instant – once the output decreased, one simply has to exchange the electrolyte – water – to get the module back to it’s full capacity! Although the Haas cell is many times lighter than a heavy lead battery, the lower energy density would probably require more or bigger cells in order to generate the same output, so the lighter weight can but conditionally be stated as a further advantage.

Battery prototype consisting of several cells

Battery prototype consisting of several cells

Eduard (Edi) Haas bought an electric car of the make Skoda and replaced the lead-acid batteries with 13 of his magnesium-water batteries. He arranged them in such a way, that he would have to poor water into just one of the cells and from there it would spill over into all the others. Of course a pump would do the job on the inlet and his idea was to drain the water through a valve controlled outlet at a certain position, whenever electrolyte saturation was diminishing the output current. The motor of the car run on 84 Volts and produced an output of 15,4 kW. To achieve this, a current of 183 Ampére was needed. In order to get the right Voltage and Amperage, a set of small batteries was serially connected to produce sufficient voltage, while larger modules were connected in parallel to increase Amperage.

The electric Skoda at the workshop

The electric Skoda at the workshop

He told me this anecdote: The police had stopped him on a test drive without number plates, before the car had passed the regulatory approval (remark: in Switzerland the number plates for a vehicle are issued in the name of the vehicles proprietor and are not transferred together with the vehicle in case of a trade). He explained to the police man, that he just wanted to try his vehicle, and that the procedure for approval was underway. Of course the police man would not accept this excuse and wanted to fine him. Mr. Haas told him that he would actually welcome a fine, as it would prove his driving on water. The policeman scratching his head abstained from issuing the ticket and instead escorted him back to his workshop.

Eduard (Edi) Haas in his workshop

Eduard (Edi) Haas in his workshop

When I met Eduard Haas, he was quite devastated. He had filed for a Swiss patent, but had – due to a lack of funds – neglected the international protection of his invention. Further he had no funds left to go in for proper technical evaluation of the cells parameters and he was negotiating with several people for a licensing, some of whom obviously tried to get all the details of his invention for free. I arranged a meeting between Haas and someone who could have put up the money for continuation, but this potential investor lost interest, after one of his acquaintanes working for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich told him, that magnesium was problematic and would behave erratic as an electrode. However this was an inofficial statement and the cell has never undergone proper assessment. Although I helped Edi with some money to meet his most pressing personal obligations, I was not in the position to help financially for any further technical development and finally I ended up trying to keep his creditors at bay while I was calling or writing letters to just anybody I could think of with a potential to help furthering this development.

It was a lost battle from the beginning. Eduard Haas was getting increasingly desperate because his bank was unwilling to wait any longer for the downpayments of his mortgage and threatened with foreclosure. He called me once a week asking for any good news or for some more money and I grew increasingly disenchanted with the hopless search for funding with just vague information for an unproven product and with an incomplete patent protection. Whomever I contacted for funding declined in disbelief and the creditors started to grow very impatient with me, because of my asking them to be patient.

At some point all contact ceased. I don’t know what happened to Eduard Haas – but I assume he decided to leave his problems behind and escape into the next dimension, as he would announce at times in exasperation.

Now – some time later – the Japanese inventor Susumu Suzuki has come up with a similar principle: A battery that runs on water and can easily be recharged by simply injecting some water into the 1.5 Volt AA or AAA sized cell. The product is marketed under the brand NoPoPo (http://www.aquapowersystem.com) and has been received with astonishment by the audience. Although it does not have the same energy density as an alkaline battery, it is quite suitable for appliances that require low current and a cell can be recharged 4 to 5 times by repeatedly adding a few drops of water or other liquids.