While batteries are cheap and readily obtainable today, sometimes it’s still fun to mess around with their less-common manifestations. Experimenting with a few configurations, Hackaday.io user [will.stevens] has assembled an aluminium-air battery and combined it with a joule thief to light an LED.
To build the air battery, soak an activated charcoal puck — from a water filter, for example — in salt-saturated water while you cut the base off an aluminium can. A circle of tissue paper — also saturated with the salt water — is pressed between the bare charcoal disk and the can, taking care not to rip the paper, and topped off with a penny and a bit of wire. Once clamped together, the reaction is able to power an LED via a simple joule thief.
The cell averages an output of five milliwatts — at approximately 10% efficiently — which decreases as the salty water is used in the reaction and just plain dries up. Watering the battery daily — there’s an oddity — maintains the reaction and after a week you can see how much of the can has eroded in the process.