power a low power LED overnight, so I set up a simple
solar night light that has been working for about a year
Figure 7 shows a typical “on after dark” circuit. The
resistor at the transistor’s collector should be calculated
based on your LEDs operating volatage and the number
of cells you choose to use in the circuit. The 50K pot
will determine the circuit’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Though the homebrewed cell outlined here has a
very limited capacity, I hope you’ll find its fundamentals
as truly fascinating as I have.
I believe all the principles necessary are here for
creating larger cells and following in Edison’s considerable
footsteps in other designs.
Surprisingly, my first introduction to Edison cells was
at a local energy fair more than 15 years ago. A professor
from a junior college exhibited a Volkswagon
converted to run on a large set of antique
Edison cells. The cells in his car — many more
than 50 years old — had been operating his
Volkswagen with off-the-shelf motor and other
claimed a range of nearly 100 miles, and a top speed of
60 MPH … besting many of the new breed of electric cars
For a simple nickel plating video/method:
A good source for pottery oxides/pigments:
For industrial quality conductive epoxy:
Edison with his battery.
For electrolyte chemicals
(and often oxides as well)
An old Edison advertisement.
For top (laboratory) quality chemicals, I'd
recommend suppliers like United Nuclear,
Spectrum, and always a google search!
I’ll make additional information
(including a video showing the construction
of the simple cell and nickel plating)
available to Nuts & Volts readers at
I’d like to thank Ellsworth Adhesives for
donating the conductive epoxy, and Dr.
Vijayamohanan K. Pillai for his
encouragement and advice in sorting out
the fact and fiction on these remarkable
Edison and the
car (1,000 mile
February 2012 43