Lead From Lead Acid Batteries

Introduction: Lead From Lead Acid Batteries

About: Chemistry and electronics have been a staple in my life since I was 8 and have pretty much been my only hobbies although I have dabbled in herbalism, art, music, and various other areas as well.

This project has been sitting on the shelf for a few months so I decided to post it kind of "as is" as more of how to get the lead out rather than completely rebuilding them. I only got around to melting half of the plates but the concept is still the same. Originally I was going to reduce the lead oxide paste back into lead but due to lack of sufficient equipment (furnace wouldn't get hot enough) and other things coming up I wasn't able to finish but none the less, its still good information. Always dispose of chemicals properly and stay safe.

I had about 6 dead batteries laying around so I thought I'd have a go at extracting the lead from at least one of them.

Disclaimer: I hold no liability for anything resulting from your use of the information or lack of information contained within this instructable. You have been warned!

Chemicals you will be dealing with:

1. Lead (C.A.S# : 7439-92-1)

2. Sulfuric Acid (C.A.S#: 7664-93-9)

3. Water (yes it is considered a chemical) (C.A.S#: 7732-18-5 IUPAC Name: Oxidane)

4. Carbon (C.A.S#:7440-44-0 )

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Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Materials in no particular order:

1. Your dead battery

2. Gloves (either the heavy, chemical resistant ones, or latex free gloves (vinyl, nitrile, etc.) (not sure what sulfuric acid does to latex)

3. Something to cut with (I chose a grinder with a cutoff wheel but any appropriate cutting apparatus will do haha)

4. Safety glasses (sulfuric acid and flying debris seem to be bad for the eyes for some reason)

5. A funnel is always handy

6. Water (preferably distilled so as to not contaminate the acid when washing the plates off)

7. A 5 gal. bucket or other large mouth container

8. Filters (if you want to filter the acid but be forewarned- sulfuric acid can dissolve cellulose (paper, cotton, etc.))

Step 2: Dump the Acid Out

Now would be a good time to put on the safety glasses and gloves. Pop the caps open with a screwdriver and carefully dump the acid out into the bucket. The purpose of the over sized bucket is to catch the acid from all six cells (12 volt) at the same time without spilling (hopefully) any of the acid on the nice concrete floor.

Step 3: Cut the Battery Open

Fairly self explanatory.

Step 4: Scrap the Plates

Separate the into three piles- positive (often black), negative (often gray), and separator (that black rubber thing).

Step 5: Melt 'em

See Pictures.

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    4 Discussions

    Dennis R Levesque
    Dennis R Levesque

    Question 3 months ago on Step 5

    You sure don't explain much. What the heck is that contraption? Is that a thermometer or pressure gauge? What number are you aiming for? What's the tubing for, propane, oxygen, smoking weed? Why can't you just melt it with a propane torch? What kind of things can you use for the crucible? Won't a tin-can develop a hole? What is the fire-to-crucible size ratio? How long does it take? Can you heat it fast, or slowly? This is certainly no recipe.


    Answer 3 months ago

    That contraption is a boiler for distilling water/running small steam engines, and that's a pressure gauge. The boiler itself doesn't even get used in this case, just the furnace part. I could melt it with a propane torch but whats the point in wasting the propane when I literally had tons of wood laying around. A wood fire can reach temperatures hot enough to melt steel if you let the wood turn into charcoal, and use forced air. You can use anything that will handle the heat, and not burn or melt, for a crucible. I used a steel fire extinguisher with the top cut off. Its thick enough to not disintegrate in the heat of the fire. As for the fire to crucible size ratio, I'd go with a hot fire and a crucible small enough to fit in your furnace. It takes a while, depending on how long it takes to find the tools and such. You can heat as fast or as slow as you want. This isn't a recipe, its a guide. We're not making cookies.


    2 years ago

    great source of lead for electro chemistry electrodes.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Its also a great source for sulfuric acid as well! The great thing about lead is that it can be melted on the stove, its ductile making molding and shaping quite easy, and lead dioxide and lead electrodes are fairly robust especially in sulfuric acid electrolysis for production of hydrogen and oxygen. Lead dioxide electrodes have been historically used as a cheap alternative for things like platinum and graphite in certain applications. Graphite basically dissolves in sulfuric acid and sulfate solutions (personal experience), destroying the electrode whereas lead does not dissolve as well. In my electrolyzer designs, however, I use dialysis tubing as a membrane between the two cells (allows for a pressure differential between the two cells (~18" H2O) making gas capture quite easy). Dialysis tubing is made from cellulose so I can't use an overly acidic or overly basic electrolyte like sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide, I can, however, use salts like sodium sulfate. The membrane gives rise to some interesting chemical reactions though. If I used sodium chloride, it would split it into NaOH and HCl, if I used epsom salt it would split it into MgOH and H2SO4, so the membrane is both useful and annoying haha