Introduction: DIY AA Batteries!

Picture of DIY AA Batteries!

Today we're going to learn how to easily make our own batteries from very inexpensive household materials.

An AA battery is a standard size cylindrical battery commonly used in portable electronic devices. The exact terminal voltage and capacity of an AA size battery depends on the cell chemistry but are usually rated at or near 1.5 volts.

An AA cell measures 49.2–50.5 mm in length, including the terminal and 13.5–14.5 mm in diameter.

AA batteries account for over 50% of general battery sales and the average price of a quality AA battery can range from $0.59 to as much as $1.42 or more.

Think this would be helpful in an emergency? Is this a viable and renewable source of energy? Would this be a good way to teach kids about science?

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

To get started, the materials you'll need include:

- (1) Strip of Corrugated Paper (Cardboard Box)

- (12) Copper Flat Washers [Size #10]

- (14-16) Zinc Flat Washers [Size #10]

- (1) Shrink Wrap Tubing [2.5"x1"]

- (4oz.) Distilled Water

- (1oz.) Vinegar

- (4 Tblspns) Table Salt (NaCl)

You will also need the following tools:

- Soldering Iron

- Solder

- Mixing Bowl

- Digital Multimeter

- Scissors

- Sand Paper

- Needle Nose Pliers

- Lighter (or Heat Gun)

- An Old AA Battery (for reference)

Step 2: Prepare Copper & Zinc

Picture of Prepare Copper & Zinc

The Copper and Zinc Flat Washers are going to serve as your anodes and cathodes for your battery separated by an electrolyte. This battery will be constructed of 11 cells in series to create a robust 1.5 volts.

The Copper and Zinc washers should be clean, free of debris and roughened with 100 grit sandpaper and wiped until brilliant and shiny.

Step 3: Cut Cardboard

Picture of Cut Cardboard

Next, we'll be cutting our corrugated paper into 11 squares. These will serve as a tiny sponge to absorb and suspend the electrolyte between our copper and zinc anodes and cathodes.

When cutting the cardboard squares be sure they are precisely the size of the washers. If they are too large they will create a short; if they are too small they will not hold sufficient electrolyte.

When finished put them to the side.

Step 4: Prepare the Electrolyte

Picture of Prepare the Electrolyte

Voltage is a potential difference which we find with copper and zinc. The electrolyte is the medium through which this charge can pass.

To prepare the electrolyte, first stir the 4 Tablespoons of Table Salt into the 4oz. of Distilled Water until the water has reached it maximum salinity and the salt no longer dissolves. The water should have a milky white appearance. Be sure to mix thoroughly before adding vinegar.

Once settled, add 1 oz. of Vinegar, mix and allow to sit.

Step 5: Soak Paper

Picture of Soak Paper

Once your electrolyte mix has been left to stand for approximately 5 minutes, you can insert your cardboard squares to let soak. Be sure to submerse all squares, stir and allow them to float until they are ready to use.

Step 6: Stretch Shrink Wrap

Picture of Stretch Shrink Wrap

To ensure a tight fit we have selected a shrink wrap that is slightly smaller in diameter than our washers. We will need to stretch it temporarily in order to insert our washers and paper squares.

Insert the closed Needle Nose Pliers and open them slowly while working them around until stretched to 110% in diameter. Repeat on other side.

A washer should now fit snugly when placed in the tube horizontally.

Step 7: Test Components

Picture of Test Components

As discussed, we will be building 11 cells consisting of Copper, Electrolyte and Zinc.

Before constructing our battery we will make one cell to test our components.

Simply stack one Copper Washer, one soaked Cardboard square and top it with one Zinc washer.

Next we will test it with our Digital Multimeter. The red wire should be in the Voltage slot, the black wire in the COM slot and the Multimeter should be set to at or near 20vDC. Then, contact the black lead to the Copper washer and the red lead to the Zinc making sure they are isolated and not touching each other or anything else.

You should now see a display of somewhere between 0.05 and 0.15 volts!

If your reading is higher than this, don't worry, the voltage may climb but will then reduce. If you're reading is lower than this check your components and try again. If your reading is zero, check your contacts and make sure your Multimeter is set correctly.

Step 8: Plan the Core Build

Picture of Plan the Core Build

Before getting started, take a look at the image showing how the construction of the cells will make your battery.

Notice the order: Copper, Zinc, Electrolyte, Repeat.

Step 9: Build the Core

Picture of Build the Core

To build the core, we will be stacking the components making sure they are flat, without spaces and without compressing the electrolyte mixture out.

First insert a Copper Washer pushing it 1/4" from the end and making sure it is horizontally straight. Next, drop a Zinc Washer on top and then add one of your soaked electrolyte squares. It is helpful to have a pen or nail to push the cardboard down evenly, just be sure not to press too hard.

Then repeat, Copper, Zinc, Electrolyte, tap down, Copper, Zinc, Electrolyte, tap down... until the last zinc washer tops the stack.

Before sealing your battery, compare to a standard AA Battery to ensure the correct length. If necessary, add additional Zinc Washers until the correct length is reached. Note that the protruding nub on the positive side will be added later with solder.

Once the correct length is reached, begin heating the end that you started with, making sure to make a tight seal. Next heat the sides of your battery until the Heat Shrink Tube tightly contours to the ripples of the washers. Then, trim the excess leaving only 1/4" and heat until a tight seal is formed on the other end.

Step 10: Add Terminals

Picture of Add Terminals

Now we're going to add our terminals. Plug in your Soldering Iron and wait until hot.

Secure your battery copper side up (the side you started with). You will then apply heat to the solder while holding it above the hole formed on the end of your battery. As it melts, press solder into the hole until full and finish with a small bead of solder on top.

Once cool, flip your battery over so the Zinc side is up. If you added additional washers this side will require quite a bit more solder. Repeat the process until full and top with a large bead of solder to signify the positive side. More or less solder can be added at this point to exactly match the correct length.

Step 11: You're Done! Time to Test It!

Picture of You're Done! Time to Test It!

Your battery is now complete!

If you've done everything correctly you should be able to attach your Multimeter (same settings as before) and get a reading at or around 1.5 volts!

Compare it to a standard AA battery to see how you did!

*Troubleshooting: It is normal for your voltage to be high at first and then level out. If your voltage is slightly low, try pulling the battery from the ends to stretch it slightly. If your voltage is very low you may have a short (electrolyte square misaligned) or you may have stacked components in the wrong order.

Step 12: Use Your New Battery!

Picture of Use Your New Battery!

Your battery will fit into any standard AA slot and will provide the voltage you need to power all your favorite gadgets!

This homemade battery can power LED Flashlights, Portable Recording Devices, your Computer Mouse or any other device that requires AA batteries.

Now that you can make your own batteries at home you'll never need to buy expensive store-bought batteries again!!!

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DrewPaulDesigns (author)2015-03-19

I just want to give a special thanks to the Instructables community for your votes and support and to the Instructables staff and sponsors for awarding this project the Grand Prize for the Make Energy contest!
This is truly the most innovative site on the net and I am proud to play a part in helping people all over the world to make their own energy! Stay tuned for more projects! I am honored and inspired!
Thanks again!!!

daby64 (author)DrewPaulDesigns2015-12-26

WELL DONE SIR. It has been said that in the US. alone they use approx 40 Billion batteries every year. Gosh, what toxic waste they must make on this fragile earth. That's apart from the nuclear waste.

DrewPaulDesigns (author)daby642015-12-29

It's the little things we do every day that make the biggest impact. This is my little contribution. Thanks! More to come soon so be sure to follow!

jchavis2 (author)daby642015-12-29

If you think that's bad, have you seen how nasty the insides of a hybrid car battery can be? Using lithium cells is far more hazardous than lead acid batteries.

jchavis2 (author)daby642015-12-29

If you think that's bad, have you seen how nasty the insides of a hybrid car battery can be? Using lithium cells is far more hazardous than lead acid batteries.

Well done!


Congratulations! You deserved it! :)

Thank you, sir. Yours was fantastic as well!

Thank you :)

Scotticus (author)2015-02-21

To whoever is using 200 a month on batteries, I can't believe you wouldn't have gone with rechargeables.

mrgw98 (author)Scotticus 2015-02-21

That is my mom and rechargeables actually drain out faster, plus they are only 1.2v instead of the normal battery 1.6v. The $200 is somewhat an exaggeration but it does come somewhat close!

JeremyA2 (author)mrgw982015-02-22

Where did you get the notion that rechargeables actually drain out faster? This is simply not true anymore. This hasn't been the case in years since most rechargeable batteries switched from NiCD to NiMH. You can easily do some research and find people that have run tests on this:

Alkaline batteries typically hold around 2,000 to 2,500 mAh. Here are some rechargeable Eneloops that are also 2,500 mAh:

These EBL's hold 2,800 mAH:

Also the 1.2V vs 1.6V is also misleading. Alkaline's voltage curve drops off very quickly. Only a fully charged Alkaline will show 1.5V or more. As soon as you start draining it the voltage falls rather quickly to levels at or below 1.2V. The NiMH (Rechargeable) battery on the other hand maintains very close to 1.2V throughout it's discharge cycle. It provides a much more constant voltage which is much better than a fluctuating voltage for most applications.

This is partially due to the much lower internal resistance in the NiMH which also gives it the advantage of not having a much lower capacity (or voltage) at higher discharge rates. If you pull a lot of current from an Alkaline battery, you may only get 500 mAh from it instead of the 2,500 it's rated for. The NiMH on the other hand will provide 2,500 mAH regardless of how much current you draw from it because very little energy is wasted as heat from the batteries internal resistance.

In real world use, about the only application that Alkaline lasts longer than NiMH in is storage. If the battery is not being used at all Alkaline has a self discharge rate of almost nothing. So they can sit on the shelf for years with no loss of capacity. NiMH has gotten better, but still need to be recharged about once a year or two to keep them topped off.

But any application where you are actually using the battery and drawing anything more than 100mAh from it, NiMH will last significantly longer than Alkaline plus you can recharge it instead of throwing it away which saves both money and the environment. (Especially if you're not "properly" disposing of them.)

EMU2 (author)JeremyA22017-04-14

It also helps to store NiMH cells in the refrigerator to slow down the self discharge rate.

gene328 (author)JeremyA22015-12-29

I agree with Stoobers, when I use
batteries they louse power pretty
quick where Alkaline
batteries last much longer. I bought an alkaline battery charger that
works pretty good.

This is the one I have.

At Amazon

Power FC999 Universal Rapid Charger for Alkaline, RAM, Ni-MH, Ni-CD,
AA, AAA, C, D, 9V Batteries
MartinG40 (author)gene3282015-12-30

@gene328 - That's what you get for using cheap rechargeables. Bite the bullet and buy some Eneloops. I usually buy the Sanyo ones since they are a bit cheaper than Panasonic, but here in Canada Costco currently has a starter pack with a charger, ten AA, and four AAA Panasonic Eneloops for just $55 CDN, which is a great deal even if it didn't include the charger.

Unlike regular NiMH batteries, Eneloops have an advanced dielectric that reduces self-discharge so much that they are sold already charged, like Akalines, which is something just not possible with regular rechargeable batteries.

PhilKE3FL (author)MartinG402015-12-30

I concur, these batts are great! I use them in my 2m HT, my scanners, other radios and portable batt operated TV, also flashlights & mp3 players (mostly the AAAs for those). I have enough that it may take me a year or more to cycle through all my batteries. The flashlights last forever since I hardly use them and the batteries do not self discharge at all quickly, they claim a 10 year shelf life meaning they will still have 70% of the initial charge after 10 years.

SteveA35 (author)JeremyA22015-12-29

Just a couple notes to your otherwise good write-up: Some
devices (such as one Olympus camera we own) detect 1.2 volts as a cut-off and
will go on strike after 2-3 photos. This in addition to several test
instruments I own that want to see more than the 1.2-1.25V from NiCds or NiMh
cells. For those I have tried several different brands of rechargeable
alkalines and their performance is all over the map, some (Chinese) have
vomited chemicals after a few cycles or faded while stored despite being
appropriately charged.

The last of Kirkland (Costco brand) AA alkalines cells
finally died in a wall clock with a ‘stale date’ of 2002!

I salvaged some Burgess NiCad ‘D’ cells from an Air
Force junkyard in France in the mid-60s which I used into the early 90s before
their capacity degraded too far to be useful.

stoobers (author)JeremyA22015-02-23

Sadly, some devices require a minimum voltage to operate.

Consider a device with 4 AA's in it. The Alkaline should be around 6 volts. But 4 NiMH cells will produce 4.8V.

So when using NiMH batteries, they dip from 1.2v to 1.1v, you get 4.4v, which is quite a ways below 6v. The chip inside the device turns off the device, or it goes into "almost dead battery" mode and doesn't work well.

The is plenty of energy in the NiMH cells, but you can't get to the energy, since the device is designed for 4 batteries at 1.5v per battery.

I have this problem with some walkie talkies and also a camera. If they just didn't go into low power mode, there wouldn't be an issue.

JeremyA2 (author)stoobers2015-02-23

As has already been explained, this is simply not true. Any device that is meant to use Alkaline will be designed to accept much lower voltages because Alkaline batteries suffer massive voltage drops under load.

An Alkaline battery, with 50% of it's capacity left, will be below 1.0 volts. A NiMH with 50% of it's capacity left will still be at nearly 1.2V. So for most of their discharge cycle a NiMH will actually have a *higher* voltage than Alkaline, not lower.

Brand new out of the package Alkaline will read 1.5 volts, but as soon as you start drawing power out of it it drops *very* quickly. Read the links I posted, look at the graphs. Watch how quickly the Alkalines fall below 1.0V while the NiMH stay right at 1.2 until almost completely depleted. Even at only 100ma the Alkaline falls to below 1.2 volts before it's even down to 70% remaining of it's overall capacity.

So any device that was designed to be used with Alkaline batteries that "shuts off" once the battery gets below 1.1V would never be able to use more than 30% of the total energy available in an Alkaline. That same device would manage to capture 70% of the energy in a NiMH. So this would still be a case where NiMH comes out ahead. In fact devices that are designed for Alkaline batteries are generally much more tolerable of lower voltages because an Alkaline battery still has considerable capacity left even at 0.8 volts. if devices stopped working at lower voltages you'd be wasting a massive number of batteries by tossing batteries with plenty of charge remaining.

I do have devices that exhibit this symptom but it's not really a problem. One example that comes to mind are my outdoor wireless sprinkler timer/controllers. I will put freshly charged NiMH batteries in around Feb/March and by May the "low battery" warning light will come on. But since the voltage of a NiMH takes so long to drop, the device continues working fine until I put the sprinklers away for winter time in November every year. I've never had a set of Eneloop AA batteries that didn't last me all year on a charge. The Duracells I used previously would have to be replaced about half way through the summer every year.

RobertG100 (author)JeremyA22015-12-25

Not true. I have several devices that require more voltage than NiMH batteries provide. They work fine with Alkaline batteries an NiZn rechargeables. One is a laser that requires 2 cells, and the other 2 are signal processors. Newer versions probably work with lower voltage, but the laser is pretty recent. Low dropout regulators, lower voltage digital circuitry and v to v converters aren't always used.

avocadostains (author)JeremyA22015-02-24

You act like you are the authoritative judge of rechargeable vs disposable batteries, like there is no other side to the argument or situations where disposables make more sense for various reasons. A google search will reveal that not just 'one guy', but in fact a number of people have had problems when trying to switch to rechargeable batteries. Disposables are cheaper, You don't need to take special care to fully discharge them to avoid charging memory issues they hold their charge well when not in use. For both those reasons, charging memory and leakage over time when sitting charged but not in use, it is reasonable to say that in real life applications, rechargeables 'don't last as long as regular batteries'. Not talking in the long term, just talking on the first charge, you can get twice the life out of a disposable. The thing about batteries is theyre often used in portable devices. Most people dont take their battery charging stations with them when they leave the home. Disposable just work. Every time. In any device you put them in. Energy density or savings/environmental impact over time is not the only consideration. Lastly, SOME DEVICES WON'T WORK AT ALL WITH RECHARGEABLES DUE TO UNDER OR OVER VOLTAGE. Yes, many devices can tolerate a range of voltages. But not all can. Don't believe me? Check out this site:

Or take a look at the rayovac battery company's official website:

*Spoiler Alert*-Both sites support the side of the argument that you are trying to completely negate.

stoobers (author)JeremyA22015-02-23

I have a real-world operating situation that supports my theory. You have some laboratory data and graphs that support your theory.

So we can let my applied situation trump your theory, or we can can agree to disagree.

Ironically, your real-world trials with your sprinkler exactly support my theory, too, only it keeps functioning despite the warning. But my experiences don't support your theory. Awesome! I'll put you down for "in full agreement" with me.

And regarding:

"wasting a massive number of batteries by tossing batteries with plenty of charge remaining"

That is exactly what happens. If the device requires a minimum voltage before shutting down, lots of energy gets lost into the trash.

avocadostains (author)JeremyA22015-02-22

I had a can opener that ran on aa batteries. It worked for about a year. When the batteries ran out I replaced them with fresh aa rechargeable. The thing did not have the power to open a single can.

JeremyA2 (author)avocadostains2015-02-23

Ahh, then never mind. One guy had one set of rechargeable batteries that didn't work so all rechargeable batteries must be bad.... Forget about all the real world test data that says otherwise.

Seriously... Did you bother to charge them before use? Not all rechargeable batteries are created equal and most do not come "pre-charged". What brand were they? What chemistry were they? NiCD? NiMH? Zinc? How long did they sit on the shelf before use?

avocadostains (author)JeremyA22015-02-23

Actually I just checked dollar tree's website. I was mistaken. The aa's I got from there were 8 for a dollar. Compared to the rayovacs, which are a $2.25 cents initial cost per piece, the dollar tree aa's are 12.5 cents apiece initial cost. Id have to put the rechargeables through 18 recharge cycles to break even on the cost. Seeing as how they are supposed to be equivalent to the disposable which lasted about a year, assuming I had to recharge them once per year, that would be 18 years to break even on the cost.

avocadostains (author)JeremyA22015-02-23

I got them at menards, it was a while ago but I'm 95% sure they were Rayovac Recharge Plus AA's. I remember I chose that specific kind because it said right on the package that they came pre-charged, ready for use right out of the package. Needless to say I was disillusioned. Also I know about battery shelf life so I would have specifically gotten the freshest ones. They were legit name brand, fresh, pre-charged, expensive rechargeable batteries. They didnt work in the can opener. I'm sure they would have powered an led flashlight just fine and probably work just as well as disposables for many other applications, but in this particular application, a can opener, they were clearly not just inferior but unusable. I will so go to menards and buy another package to settle this. By the way the batteries in it now are disposables from the dollar tree, 4 for a dollar. They work really well.

mrgw98 (author)JeremyA22015-02-23

I found out fact that rechargeable batteries do not hold a charge as long out by experience. They are absolutely horrible in charge! I get about 3-5 times the use out of one non-rechargeable battery then I do out of a rechargeable one!

dick55 (author)JeremyA22015-02-23

Very good comment!

sls1j (author)mrgw982015-12-24

She must have tried the garbage energizer rechargeable. Instead she should try the Eneloop rechargeable. They work much better, there voltage fully charged is 1.4v. I find that a charge lasts longer on the Eneloop than the alkaline batteries, and I use the 1900ma version not the more expensive ones. I'm a caver and light is super important, I've been using the same set for over a year and they are still going strong. I's also important that you get a good charger. Don't bother with the ones included with batteries, they just ruin your batteries. La Crosse is a good solid brand.

Jessev (author)mrgw982015-02-22

I assume you are talking about a TENS machine? Go replace it with one that has a USB-rechargeable, internal battery!!! My girlfriend got me the AccuRelief for Christmas. I just checked Amazon, it's only $43! Stop wasting so much on batteries!

mrgw98 (author)Jessev2015-02-23

Good to know, will do for sure!!!

alxndara (author)2016-11-29

Is it okay if i will not wipe the washers into the sand paper?

EMU2 (author)alxndara2017-04-14

You will get bad performance from your home made battery if you omit this step. The reason is that there will be oxidation on the metal washers which acts as an insulator. The purpose of sanding the washers with the sandpaper is to remove the oxidation.

Regis35 (author)2016-07-05

How can we recharge em if we can?

Marshmello72 (author)2016-02-08

How much does one of these batteries weigh

HeidiHoNess (author)2016-01-28

I really enjoyed this!! Great information. Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to try it out.

Productionmark (author)2015-12-29

Just wanted to ask :)
Can we do something like this so we can recharge the batteries?

I think that would be really cool :)

What do you think?

Yea, to recharge you'll just need to disassemble, clean the plates, add new electrolyte and re-wrap. I get it done in about 2-3 minutes with some practice.

So it's possible... :) Hmmm... I'll try it :)

mrgw98 (author)2015-12-30

OMG I left 2 comments a while back about batteries and now my email account has exploded from responses over this time period, haha. Glad I could being people together and start a good conversation, haha.

aephix (author)2015-12-24

Maybe a dumb question, but what happens when the water evaporates from the electrolyte?

JosephG24 (author)aephix2015-12-30

Once an aqueous electrolyte is no longer hydrated, it becomes more of a dielectric than an electrolyte. Keeping the electrolyte salt bridge hydrated is why most cells are sealed with a pressure release valves to expel excess gas generated during the chemical process, in addition to keeping the chemicals used away from other possibly reactants (ie, acid and your hand). There is other electrolytes, like gel, dry polymer, and cerramic; but that is beyond the scope of this instructable.

mbresciani (author)2015-12-29

It would be really useful if you included your battery's capacity.

ie if an alkaline battery holds around 2,250 mAhm, then how much does yours hold?

My testd led me to an estimate of 800-1000 mAh, though this can vary greatly (in either direction) due to the rather crude method. Good news is they are easy to "recharge" by adding fresh electrolyte, cleaning the washers and re-wrapping! Thanks for checking out my 'ible!

Great. I will try one myself.


PhilKE3FL (author)2015-12-29

Have you determined the AHr rating? I think this would make a wonderful school science/technology project along with a Joule Thief circuit! As for real-life usage my reusable NiMH AA batts are just under 2AHr and 1.25 Volts & they are better than most Alkaline batts & reusable for ~ 500 charges. Since these enelope batts have about a 10 year shelf life I only charge them after I use them so perhaps they get charged once every two years, or less, meaning my collection will out last me! If we all bought rechargeable batts we'd only have our collection of batteries, one set recharging the other being used, for as many items as need batteries (radios, flashlights, etc) and these would last our entire lives if not our children and grandchildren as well, for much less pollution!

I'm glad you think so! I get that question a lot. Short answer is 800-1000 mAh but it varies quite a bit all things considered. They're easy to recharge though; see previous comments... Great input.

charliewinters (author)2015-02-23

I used a washer, a piece of plated copper, a round punch, a flat drift punch, a hammer, and sheet metal snips; to make this positive battery terminal that can be slipped inside the heat shrink before sealing the end. It's reuseable, and more cost effective than making solder terminal ends.

To make the negative terminal, just cut a circle of galvanized steel sheet metal.

Solder is costly, and you have to have a soldering iron. So you have your electricity as production overhead as well. By the time you factor in all of the solder, and electricity used, you might as well just go buy batteries.

Making these reusable plates will cut out all of the production overhead of using solder. Not to mention, one might not have electricity access in a situation where making their own battery might be crucial.

As a footnote, be gentle when tapping out the positive terminal. It is possible to rip the sheet metal. Using the flat punch, tap lightly and shape your circle. Then switch to the round punch, and lightly round out the center slightly.

Cut the shape out after making the divit.

Would it be possible to acid wash the plates cutting down the time in cleanup for reuse? Something like dipping them in some ferric chloride, or just straight muratic acid, followed by an alkiline bath to neutralize the acid? Will this alter the plates? I wager it would eat the zinc plating from the steel washers.

What would be a good alternative source of straight zinc? Is it possible to get a bar of zinc that could be cut into washer like discs?

About This Instructable



Bio: I am a tech maniac; from media, marketing and design to alternative energy and more. Check out my website for links to all my projects.
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