Emergency Battery in the Wilderness




Imagine this situation:
You're camping in the wilderness. In the area where you have your tent, there live carnivorous man-eating scorpions which are active at night because they are afraid of light. So in the evening you are testing if your flashlight is still working, because you need it to scare off the scorpions. You see that the battery is empty.
Is this a reason to panic?
Because you have read this instructable!
You don't have a working battery anymore, but you probably do have: some coins containing copper, aluminum(from a can or a lightweight cooking set), sour body liquids(urine, or even better, puke), something that can absorb(like toilet paper but just some earth will also work), some leaves from a tree(the bigger the better), and some tape or rope.
In the last step I will tell how you can use the battery in the wild, first I'll demonstrate how to make the battery with kitchen products. Try that at home as a practice! You'll need it in the wilderness, it works the same there. For example, we'll use vinegar or lemon juice, instead of urine or puke, but it will all work(So if you find a lemon tree in the wilderness I recommend to make use of that instead of your body liquids, so your battery won't be so disgusting.)
Let's go on to the next step!

Step 1: What You Need

For this experiment, we need:
- vinegar OR lemon juice
- tape
- aluminum foil
- strong paper
- paper towel
- a bowl
- coins(you won't lose them!) containing copper, or copper-plated(these often look red-brown, and are mostly the coins with the smallest values, like 1,2 and 5 eurocent coins. I believe the USA one penny coin is copper plated, and maybe the 5- and 10 cent coins aswell. You can look it up)

you also need something to test the battery, like a bycicle light, or a multimeter.

Step 2: Making It

the blueprint: This is a cross-section of how the battery will look.
1: Roll up the paper with such a diameter that the coins fit in.
2: Tape aluminum foil on one side.
3: Make aluminum chunks of about the size of the coins. Make the same amount as the amount of coins you have.
4: Do the same with pieces of paper towel, then let them absorb the sour fluid.
5: fill the paper tube. Begin with a piece of paper towel, then a coin, then the aluminum. Repeat this till you filled the whole tube.
6: End with a coin

Step 3: Testing the Battery

Now when you take a light from a bycicle and connect it to the battery, it lights up! I don't have access to such a light at the moment, so I just tested it with my multimeter. In the picture below, i had the meter set on a range of 10 Volt, so as you can see it reaches 1,9 Volt, that's almost 1,5, which is the common battery voltage and used in almost all flashlights. I think you could use this battery in a flashlight aswell, but if you just remove one coin, aluminum, and paper towel(together one battery), the voltage will decrease a bit, because the batteries are in a series. So by just adjusting the length a bit, you can get the desired voltage! If you double the length, the voltage doubles aswell.

What you see is an electric current based on a redox reaction with copper and aluminum in a sour environment. If you're not familiar with redox reactions you can learn more about them here.

Step 4: Use It in the Wild

All things we used in the experiment, are replaceable by things you find in nature, or which you have in your camping gear:
- vinegar or lemon juice = replaceable by your own puke or urine
- tape = replaceable by rope, flexible liana-like branches, strong grass. Or maybe you just have tape with you(always take tape with you on camping!)
- aluminum foil = replaceable by the aluminum from food-wrappings, cans, if neccesary from your lightweight cooking set, or anything else lightweight, which is often made from aluminum.
- paper = replaceable by leaves. You have to wrap them around eachother to make the tube, so big leaves are the best.
- paper towel = replaceable by some earth, because it should just hold the sour stuff together.
- a bowl = replaceable by a little tamped hole in the ground.
- coins are the only things that aren't replaceable. But I think you should always take money with you on camping, even in the wild.

Most flashlights are like the one below, with two batteries in a series. This is the perfect shape to make a battery like in this instructable. If there's place for only one battery, The voltage may get too low, so you should use the space you have more effectively, if you make the layers of aluminum and sour fluid as thin a possible, then there are more 'little' batteries in the series, making a higher voltage.

It's a luck that the copper coins are mostly the smaller ones, so even for small flashlights, with AA batteries, you can make the batteries yourself.

good luck with not dieing.



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    16 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Useful and lever! But long with copper-isn coins bring a dollar bill or one pound note or what-have-you
    Great 'ble, thanks :)

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations, I met your site today and I'm loving it, is with God and even more ... (forgot to say I live in Brazil)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Because I speak Dutch myself, I'm from Belgium :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is amazing!! Just a stupid question: do you speak Dutch? Since vinegar was written as "azijn" on the bottle :)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I do speak dutch, this is the language we speak in my country :] azijn is dutch indeed. How did you know


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Pre 1983 U.S. pennies (except for 1942 zinc on steel pennies and the 1943-1945 shell casing scrap pennies) are 95% copper 5% zinc, after that it is copper over a zinc core.

    The King of Random

    5 years ago on Step 4

    This is creative thinking. Have you actually tested this on a lightbulb? Based on my experiences, I'm afraid it wouldn't light an incandescent bulb. The voltage is good, but I think you'll find the amperage is grossly insufficient unless you try it on a very low power LED. http://youtu.be/rIdPfDHeROI


    5 years ago

    Only pennies are copper in the us, but 1980+ pennies have both the metals needed to make a battery. Zinc and copper

    Using pennies from before about 1970 work a lot better because they are 95% copper instead of just a thin coating of copper, also I used dish soap and got about 3v from only 7 pennies. Of course after an hour the voltage dropped down to around 1v but it was enough to power an led for a long time.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I don't think urine would be acidic enough for this to work, nor would vomit after a meal, but if you could vomit on an empty stomach and produce some gastric acid, that would surely work, since it's primarily hydrochloric acid. That would work even better than the vinegar or lemon juice.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     so you want to carry alot of old penny's while camping


    9 years ago on Step 1

    It may be useful to know that pre-1982 pennys are a mixture of 95% copper and 5% zinc, while post-1982 pennys have a 97.5% zinc core with a 2.5% copper plating. That may not make a difference, but it's a fun fact regardless.