How to Make Your Very Own Blinding Sunbeam with a Lithium AA Battery

Taking apart batteries is one of those things that every adult you've ever known has warned you against. Today, we break the taboo and dive into a lithium battery. Lithium has some pretty cool properties—it burns instantly in water and glows blindly bright under flame. And with just one AA battery, you can make a blinding light beam inspiring supernatural awe in all dictatorial adults who doubted you.

Materials

  • AA lithium battery
  • Pliers
  • Propane torch
  • Glass of water
Make sure to get lithium batteries!

Step 1 Remove Plastic Label

Peel the plastic label from the outside of the battery.

It's okay if there's still some plastic residue on the case.

Caution

  • For the remaining steps, you will need to wear gloves and eye protection.

Step 2 Get Safe

Move your project outside and continue in a well-ventilated area. The chemicals in the battery are potentially hazardous, but if you follow these safety precautions, you have nothing to worry about.

Step 3 Remove Positive Terminal

Grasp, clamp, wiggle, and pull at the positive terminal of the battery. It will come out just after you have given up. I found that diagonal cutters worked best. When gripping the terminal, try to avoid shorting out the battery by connecting the positive terminal to the outer shell with your pliers. If you short out the battery and it begins to heat up, let it cool in a well ventilated area before resuming.

Almost off! This bit took me 15 minutes. Grrrr.
Finally got the positive terminal off and exposed the valve!

Step 4 Remove Valve

Beneath the positive terminal is a valve designed to release pressurized gas in the event of a possible explosion. This valve is also part of the positive terminal, so avoid connecting it to the outer shell.

There's no secret here. Just keep bending and prying.

Without the valve, you can now see the rolled up core of the battery.

Step 5 Peel Back Casing

Peel back the outer casing, bit by bit, to reveal the core of the battery. A few centimeters of exposure is sufficient.

The diagonal cutters really come in handy here.

Step 6 Extract Lithium

Remove the core and unroll it like a scroll. The layer of black film and foil is the negative layer. Discard this. The other layer is the lithium! It will peel off nice and neat. Put your sheet of lithium in an airtight container until you're ready for an experiment.

Remember not to touch that foil part with the outer casing at any time during the deconstruction.
This is our thin sheet of lithium metal! It peels easily off the paper backing.
The other sheet of black substrate and foil can be discarded.

Lithium corrodes very fast in open air.

Put it in an airtight container as soon as possible!

Step 7 Set It on Fire!

Place your lithium sheet on a noncombustible surface outside away from sentient beings. Use a propane torch to catch the metal on fire. Once fully on fire, the lithium will glow so intensely that you'll barely be able to look directly at it. You can also drop a piece in a glass of water and watch as a violent reaction creates bunches of hydrogen gas!

This experiment has it all. Scavenging rare materials from cheap consumer products, fire, and chemical reactions! Try it yourself, film your results, and post them on our corkboard. We would love to see how this lithium ember lights up your backyard or laboratory. Try to collect some hydrogen gas from the water reaction and post about your experience on our forum.

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