Make: Electronics-Let’s Abuse a Battery! (Experiment 2)

In this week’s experiment, I won’t be doing any sort of bodily harm to myself (for those who enjoy seeing me in pain, I apologize and will find some way to appease you in a future date).  Instead, we will be destroying a perfectly good battery by abusing it to the point that it shorts out.

What a short out looks like. Image was found on atbatt.com
Check out their blog for some great content.

For those who do not know what shorting out a battery involves, it is a very dangerous procedure that should not be done unless it is in the name of science.  In a short out, you create a closed short circuit where the flow of electrons go from one end to the battery into the other.  The electricity needs to be used up somewhere (when connected to a lightbulb, light would use up the flow of electricity), but in this short circuit the electric flow goes back to the battery.  In order to rid of its extra electricity, the battery and the wires become extremely hot until there the amount of electricity reduces to the point that it can no longer flow effectively.  I must stress that this short out should only occur in a low voltage battery such as a 1.5V AA.  If you attempt this with a higher voltage battery such as a 12V or a car battery, the battery can either explode, catch on fire, leak acid, or spray acid on your face.  Again, do not attempt this with a high voltage battery.  If you want to follow along you will need:

-2 1.5V AA Alkaline Batteries

-1 single cell battery holder

-insulated alligator clips (at least two)

-a 3 amp fuse

Step 1: Connect the leads with an alligator clip

Simple enough right?  You just want the leads to make a solid connection so that the electrons can flow through the wires and into the battery.

Step 2: Insert the battery into the holder

Congrats! You are halfway there.  The flow of electricity should be starting and within a few minutes the battery should begin heating up.  Now we play the waiting game.

Step 3: Play the waiting game

After two minutes, carefully touch the battery and you should feel it turn really hot.  Don’t let your touch linger or your skin will burn.  If you are sick of waiting for the battery to cool, just remove the alligator clip from the leads.  This should open the circuit and cause the electric flow to stop.  Congratulations.  You now have a useless battery.  You can see if your town has some recycling center for alkaline batteries or you can be like me and save them for slingshot ammunition.

Step 4: Clip the fuse, insert the battery, and wait

Okay, so maybe I did not want to make another extra two steps and just combine the rest into one giant step.  That is alright, I did it because I believe in your technical skills and not because I am lazy.  So you take your fuse and clip one end of each of the battery holder leads to the terminal on the fuse using the alligator clips.  This creates the close circuit we want.  Now insert the battery and play the waiting game. Chances are you didn’t have to wait long.  Check the inside of your fuse.  What happened?

You may be asking what the purpose of the fuse is.  The fuse acts as a safety mechanism that prevents the circuit shorting out by opening the circuit.  Take a good look at your fuse.  On the inside, you should see some sort of metal S.  Electricity travels through the metal S and into the battery, then repeats.  The fuse we used can only withstand a current of up to 3 amps.  If the current is over 3 amps, the metal S melts which doesn’t allow electricity to travel through the circuit,  causing the circuit to become open.  Fuses are very great because it prevents your expensive items from exploding in case a short out ever occurs.

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