The Organic Battery

About: I usually build things that help save energy, and different tools that help in everyday life.

Have you ever been somewhere where you need batteries to power your electronic devices? This Instructable will help you on your need too use energy, and be very eco-efficient about it too! The most ironic part about it? We are getting power from dead batteries! 

Step 1: Materials

You will need the following things, 

6 dead Heavy Duty D Batteries
Magnesium Ribbon (get it here)
Cloth Adhesive Tape
Kitchen Towel
Spray  Bottle (Optional)
24 Gauge Copper Wire
Electrical Tape
LED (preferably white)
Ferrite toroid bead  find it or buy it
2 pieces  magnet wire- I used 22 gauge wire, but you could use 24 gauge. Use around a meter each.
A 1K resistor find it or buy it 
A 2N 3904 transistor find it or buy it
At least 10 alligator clips

Soldering Iron
Wire Snips
(A Vise if you have it.)

Step 2: Taking Apart the Batteries

The batteries you will need are Super Heavy Duty D batteries. They will say so on the label. Heavy Duty batteries also work, and on some occasions the batteries that say lead free on it will work. The batteries you can NOT use are alkaline. 

To take apart the batteries, first remove the label with the knife. Now would be a good time to put on the gloves so your hands do not
melt away. now with the wire snips, snip the metal casing. Peel it with pliers, and remove the positive end cap. If you have a vise no need for the wire snips or pliers, this is the easy way. Put the battery in the vise and start tightening the vise. Using either method will expose a black carbon rod inside.On my battery, there was some rubber thing holding the carbon rod, so I cut around the rod with a knife. Now gently pull the carbon rod out of the battery. When you pull it out, there might be some stickey stuff on it, so just wipe it of with a kitchen towel. Do that with the other two batteries.

Step 3: Assembling the Organic Battery Part 1

Take three rods, and align them end to end, so that the are in a straight, vertical row. Now take the cloth tape, and tape the rods together. If you need help, just look at the pictures. 

Step 4: Assembling the Organic Battery Part 2

Take a piece of kitchen towel, and cut out a piece that is 7 inches long, and around 2 inches wide. Then wrap it around the rod. Use the cloth tape to stick the kitchen towel tightly to the rod. Cut of excess on the ends.

Step 5: Assembling the Organic Battery Part 3

Take the Magnesium Ribbon and wrap it tightly around the kitchen towel. When you first put the ribbon on the rod, tape it down with electrical tape. Then wrap it around, leaving a small spacing between the ribbon. Don't let the ribbon touch. On your third wind, wrap the first three winds in two layers of electrical tape. Continue wrapping all the way till the bottom. At the bottom, wrap the last two winds of ribbon in electrical tape. Leave some ribbon from the last wind exposed. This will be the negative lead. Tape a bit of copper wire to the top of the carbon rod. The top of the carbon rod will be your positive lead.

Do steps 3-5 with the other three rods.

Step 6: Saltwater Spray

The Organic Battery works well in humid environments,so if you live where I live; CA, You should make this spray.

Dissolve the salt in water (Doesn't matter how much water or salt). Now if you have the spray bottle, put the salt water in the spray bottle, or you could put it in a cup. Now spray or sprinkle the salt water on the Organic Battery evenly. Do not over do it.

Step 7: The Famous Joule Thief

If you wire the Organic Battery together to a LED, the light might be very dim, or not even shining. To boost the power, we are going to make the self oscillating circuit known as the Joule Thief.

To build it, take the two pieces of 24 gauge magnet wire and wrap it around the ferrite toroid. Make sure you label the wire ends, so we know which wire is which. When you are done scrape of the ends of the wires. Then twist the two DIFFERENT leads together.

Step 8: Adding the Resistor and Transistor

Now take one of the wires not twisted together, and solder the resistor to it. Then connect the other lead of the resistor to the middle lead of the transistor. Now connect two individual alligator clips to the other two leads of the transistor, and another to the untwisted wire from the toroid coil.

Step 9: Connecting the LED

Connect an alligator clip from the transistor to one lead of the LED, and the alligator clip from the wire to the same lead. Now connect the clip from the other transistorto the other lead of the LED. Now connect one alligator clip to the LED lead that only had one alligator clip on it. That will be the negative lead. Now connect one alligator clip to the twisted wire. This will be the positive lead.

Now test it on a battery. If it works, good job! If it doesn't, check polarity of the battery, and if that doesn't work, switch the two clips on the transistor around. Also make sure no wires are touching in the circuit.

Step 10: Thats It!

Connect the Organic Batteries together in series. Now connect the joule thief to the Organic Battery. One lead attatched to the copper wire, and one to the ribbon. If the LED lights, good for you! If it doesn't, check out troubleshooting below.  Have fun with your new Organic Battery! I will post a instructable soon, using this device to power it, so watch out for it! This is my first instructable, so please give me feedback, so I may improve on my skills.  Also, ask any question you down below. Please vote for me in the contests I entered in! Wow that was a lot of exclamation points! I will like to thank God for helping me finish this project. Without Him, this would have never happened.


Check the polarity of the batteries. You will have to switch it around.

Add some more saltwater. Your OB might have dried.

Check to make sure that the ribbon winds are not touching.

Check to make sure the connections are all made. You will not believe how many times I thought this was not working, when I actually did not have the alligator clip connected.



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    12 Discussions

    I think what you may have created here is a Magnesium/Manganese Dioxide battery. In the battery you disassembled, the black powder was a combination of MnO2, Carbon and Ammonium Chloride. It's very sticky, and just wiping it off with a paper towel won't clean it all off. You generally have to sand the electrode to get it clean. You've wrapped the electrode in paper towelling, then wet it with NaCl in solution, which, combined with the NH4Cl on the rod, will act as an electrolyte. In place of the zinc can on the original battery, you've put an Mg ribbon. My guess is that this will not last long, as the MnO2 remaining on the rod will be fairly rapidly depleted. Ultimately, you would get more power by taping together the "dead" C cells and using the joule thief on that. Each one of the cells probably has .5-.8 volts (depending on the original depth of discharge), so the three together are generating 1.8 - 2.4 volts, which is usable power for the JT or any other reasonably-efficient boost converter.

    1 reply

    Will you mind if I ask you things? You seem to be a lot of help. Is a silica/activated carbon battery possible? If it is, how would you be able to make one?


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project. I've seen this before under the name of "Air Battery". I have a few carbon rods and the magnesium ribbon is arriving soon. I think this will be a lot of fun to build. I'm also curious as to how long it will last. I assume the paper would be the first thing to degrade. Thanks for a great instructable!


    3 years ago on Introduction

    This is not eco-friendly at all.
    Batteries can be recycled for almost 100%. What did you do with the left over batteries? When you throw them out with the thrash they are not recycled and pollute the environment . This is a bad idea to get more use out of batteries.

    It was a nice science project but its not more then that .I would not advise anyone to try this.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I've ever tried to made ​​such a battery with carbon and magnesium , but when the battery is connected to the circuit joule thief, the lamp just lit briefly then off... Please tell me how should i do to fix it...

    1 reply

    Try adding more saltwater to the battery itself. If the led flickers, that means you have power flowing, but probably not enough. Hope I helped!

    tech savvy

    5 years ago on Introduction

    very well done instructable , I knew about making this but did not think to use old D battery's to get the carbon rod , you had a great idea , as they say you learn something new every day and now I did ,
    Thank you for sharing this great idea , and keep up the good work

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    OK, you've made a battery, that's cool, but why is it "organic"?

    I was half expecting to see you using compost...

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You could actually use this as an earth battery, where as you said, stick it into compost. I just didn't do that because it doesn't provide as much power. :)


    5 years ago

    awesome, how did u come up with the idea?