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Congress:Member:Ian Soutar

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Ian Soutar

Profile page for New Energy Congress member Ian Soutar



Representation : Owner of Microsec R&D Inc. in Victoira B.C. doing energy research on solar-voltaic marine applications and solar-voltaic homes with nickel iron battery backup. Research on nickel iron batteries which last for 30-50 years was a focus in 2009-2010. Microsec R&D Inc has shifted in 2010 from electronic product design to designing systems for energy integration and storage.

New Energy Congress : Joined August 23, 2008. Ratified Dec. 2, 2008. Left Mar. 1, 2010 "I am really busy with multiple contracts and university work and really do not have the time to carry out my duties." Rejoined September 28, 2010.

Committees : Electrical Engineering Mechanical Engineering Chemistry

Experience in the field of Alt Energy : Worked at the National Research Council's Division of Energy in the 1980s. Solar thermal testing and some solar voltaic research was carried out. The division was closed when the Conservative Brian Mulrooney became Prime Minister of Canada. My training came through the NRC labs. Later I worked in private industry for Norsun Solar in Manotick Ontario designing and testing reverse thermosyphon based thermal solar collectors. In 1986 we formed Microsec Research and Development doing industrial automation. Since 2006 we have been involved in hydrogen fuel cell assisted vehicles, especially boats. In 2007 our group along with Jim Harrington of AGO Environmental built Canada's first hydrogen assisted sailboat.

Education : 2 years of 3 year General Science at U of Waterloo ... business got too active to continue University.

National Research Council of Canada 1 year on-the-job training in solar thermal and solar voltaic labs in 1982.

Areas of Specialty : Solar Decomposition of water Hydrogen Marine Electric Battery Chemistry



Energy Snapshots

Current Activies


Work at the University of Victoria provides industrial liason and electronic assistance to students and researchers. Hydrogen, Solar and Battery operated device design is demonstrated to students to encourage alternate energy based designs. We accept research projects and can offer free engineering through the student projects.

Microsec R&D Inc. is working mainly with Nickel Iron Batteries and solar home power systems. We also are investigating their use in electric boats.

During 2010 we formed the Nickel Iron Battery Association to promote this historic battery for modern renewable energy applications. It is the ONLY battery that has a long life that can stretch to 99 years. We are excited to be offering it for sale once again ... thanks to the Chinese, Russian and Romanian manufacturers who never allowed it to be a hidden technology.


University of Victoria providing industrial liason and electronic assisstance to students and researchers. Hydrogen, Solar and Battery operated device design is demonstrated to students to encourage alternate energy based designs. This year we did work with the students to create a hydrogen fuel cell stack assisted sailboat that integrated two stacks using only one control system.

Microsec R&D Inc. work ... Electronic control system for fuel cell stack operation. This work is ongoing since there are challenges to squeezing more performance out of fuel cells. Research work is being carried out on storage batteries and hydrogen generation.


Canada's first h2 assisted sailboat using fuel cell stack and metal hydride

storage ... ongoing development.


Worked in the University of Victoria in the field of robotic fish and a bionic inner ear. A patent was applied for the bionic ear in 2007.

Past Activies

Ian Soutar worked for the National Research Council in Ottawa (1982-1983) instrumenting solar energy collection systems. This provided for on-the-job work with people in the alternate energy fields.

Ian founded Microsec R&D in 1986 to provide product design services for inventors and industry. Ian is responsible for microcontroller based products and signal processing / control systems. Past designs include a virtual reality fishing machine, a portable DNA analysis machine, a pocket-sized cardiogram device, spread spectrum radio tranceivers and several robotic industrial inspection tools with cameras and manipulators. In 1998 Ed Haslam became a partner in Microsec R&D. Ed has contributed to many of the designs of the last 10 years. Current work at Microsec involves hydrogen fuel cell control systems. We are also working with battery chemistry improvements and hydrogen generation systems as well.


Ian has received 7 patents for his designs. Most of the patents were based on industrial contracts with a few personal interest patents. These include several agricultural patents for machines that process grains for animal feed. There is a radio boosting antenna, a wind protection system for microphones, agricultural feeding systems, several hotel security systems and a fishing device patent to bring worms out of the ground using electronics.

Current Research

Marine Solar / Hydrogen Driven Electric Motors

Microsec R&D Inc. is working with AGO Environmental Inc. to develop solar electric, hydrogen electric and hybrid systems for driving boats. Last year we launched Canada's first hydrogen assisted sailboat. This year we are building a more powerful version of the same sailboat drive system.

I also have a small cabin cruiser called the "Pepper Pot" in the Victoria harbour that is solar / electric. It is a really tiny boat, about 18 feet long that will comfortably sit 4 people in the cabin. This will be the test platform for a number of battery experiments to find the best way to store energy collected by the solar panels on the boat. I do enjoy crossing the harbour in my little boat and visiting the marine gas station to get some orange juice or a chocolate bar. It used to cost me 12-20 dollars a trip for gas. Now it is free!

We will try Nickel Iron batteries in the Pepper Pot boat to increase the range. The batteries will probably out last the boat if we use Ni-Fe batteries.

Nickel-Iron Battery Chemistry Improvement

I am a great believer in studying the History of Technology to look for existing solutions. Sometimes people forget what works!

The Nickel Iron battery was developed by Edison in 1901. It was then used in electric cars such as the Baker Electric or Detroit Electric cars starting in about 1912. Many of these batteries are still in use in the mining industries of Europe where they run underground power tools and transportation trains. The batteries often last for 40 years of hard work. There are slight disadvantages of Ni-Fe chemistry due to the high internal resistance as compared to other storage battery chemistries. But NOTHING lasts like the old Edison Storage Cell design of 1901. Worth a second look at this technology for sure

At the University of Victoria Dr. Robert O'Brien has invented a magnetic process that uses very simple principles to reduce the electrolyte resistance in batteries by a factor of 15 times. He simply arranges the magnetic field so that stirring of the liquid electrolyte occurs during charge and discharge. He has a patent on the process and is happy to work with Microsec to do some tests. This method boosts the current output by about 30 percent and reduces the charge time as well. We are in the process of applying this to the old Edison Cell design of 1901.

If you go to you can see and read about the Detroit Electric Car that was in Victoria BC Canada from 1912 to 1955 ... still running on the original storage battery! The car got sold in the mid 50s and went to the interior of the province. But that same battery was still running up until 1997 when it was retired because the battery case cracked. At retirement it was still running at 80% capacity. 85 years on a storage battery!! This industrial battery production process was purchased from the Edison Storage Battery Company in 1972 by the Exide Battery Co. They shelved the "everlasting" battery design. The Detroit Electric car is currently on display at the B.C. Provincial Museum in Victoria in 2008.

This is an invitation to try the technology

The Ni-Fe battery is no longer patented! Can someone in North America put it back into production please! China has already put it back into production but the extreme weight of large house and transportation batteries makes it impractical to import them for everyday use. We would be happy to add the magnetic technology if it works. Even without this modern improvement, the Ni-Fe battery has the most ideal characteristics for solar electric backup. Too bad the perfect battery is out of production in both Canada and the USA. We also think this battery might be ideal for solar boat use. With boats you are not climbing hills so there is not much a penalty for weight. In addition boats need weight ballast to get them to sit in the water properly. Just replace the lead or concrete weight with batteries and the weight becomes an asset. Solar boats may be the ideal transportation application of the Ni-Fe battery. Hopefully others out there in countries that offer locally made Ni-Fe batteries will try them out in marine applications.

Our family house is now equipped with solar voltaic electricity and to test out nickel iron batteries I imported a bank of cells for a battery in my garden shed to store the solar electricity. It is a 22 cell system that nominally puts out 26.4 volts and it delivers 200 AH. Most of the time it sits near 30 volts because I have chosen to replace all my house lighting with DC high intensity warm white LED lights. They consume so little electricity it was amazing. I have put heavy loads on the battery and taken it down almost to zero volts. This alone would kill a lead acid battery. Then I overcharged them using 700 watts of solar with no regulator to control the charge. They bubbled for a week and I added water to protect them. This also would have killed a lead acid battery. Then I discharged them partially and overcharged them for 2 days and finally discharged them with a known load to measure the capacity. They had improved in capacity by almost 15% just as my Edison guidebook had suggested. This is how you "break them in". The battery manufacturer was ChangHong Batteries. It would be great if a North American NiFe Battery Manufacturer were to appear. There is a manufacturer in Montana that produces a reconditioned Edison cell from cells manufactured decades ago by the Edison Storage Battery Co. However it would be great to buy new ones made on our continent. The nickel iron battery association website has lots of information:

The house and boat can be seen at Microsec R&D Inc.

Dangers of Lead Acid Batteries for Solar Homes

NiFe Batteries are absolutely ideal for solar homes that need storage ... especially since the very heavy batteries contain no lead and the battery system will last as long as the solar panels do (40 years) or longer. Not all solar homes have backup batteries when grid tied systems are used. However many folk want power when the grid is down and there are others off grid that definitely need batteries. Unfortunately very few solar homes are made with NiFe batteries and most are made using lead acid batteries. The lead acid batteries will die every 7 or 8 years. They always fail. And then they are recycled ... or dumped.

The USA Dept of Energy points out that 3% of lead acid batteries never make it to recycling. Thus if a million solar homes were backed up by 500 kilograms of lead acid batteries in each home that would represent 500 million kilograms of lead ... and if 3% found their way into rivers and lakes (15 million kilograms) ... this would be a very serious problem. Please speak to you local politician in Canada or the USA to make sure that lead acid batteries are NEVER mandated for solar homes. Or we are in trouble!

Small, Mailable NiFe Samples for Battery Researchers

We are offering to supply samples to researchers of a small 10 amp hour version of the Nickel Iron Cell. Please visit the Nickel Iron Battery Association for samples ... for samples.

or Our site for full sized batteries ...

or other suppliers listed on the Nickel Iron Battery Association site.

Reports of Other NiFe Users Welcome

We would also love to hear of other people's experiences with Nickel Iron Cells ... thanks! We will publish your experiences in order to help us all to learn.


Ian Soutar

Victoria, BC, Canada

See also


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