Experience of processes of transforming matter into energy, and how natural components of our environment can generate electricity.
Develop these Key Competencies
- System Thinking
- Integrated Problem Solving
- Solar oven
- 2 raw potatoes
- 4 zinc plates of 5x10 cm
- 4 copper plates of 5x10 cm
- 1 LED
- Adhesive tape
SAFETY NOTE - Be cautious while using the cutting tools and handling the metal plates. Enjoy the experiment responsibly, and have fun exploring the world of science and electricity with your potato battery!
In this exciting and educational activity, young people aged 11 to 14 will learn how to create a potato battery and generate electricity to light up an LED lamp. Adult supervision is essential for safety, especially when handling hot water or using the stove.
Prepare the Potatoes:
- Wash the potatoes thoroughly under cool running water to remove dirt or soil. Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Cut the Potatoes (Optional):
- If the potatoes are large, ask an adult to help you cut them into flat, about ¼-inch thick slices. Be careful and use a cutting board and a safe knife.
Assemble the Potato Batteries:
- Lay out four copper plates on a flat, stable surface.
- Place a slice of cooked potato on each copper plate.
- Now, put a zinc plate on top of each potato slice, ensuring they cover the entire surface.
Secure the Batteries:
- Use tape to firmly hold the potato slices and metal plates together, but leave the top parts of the metals exposed.
Connecting the Batteries:
- Take your insulated copper wires and strip off some of the insulation from each end.
- Connect one wire end to a copper plate and the other to a zinc plate. Repeat this for the remaining plates, creating a series connection (copper-zinc-copper-zinc).
Testing the Potato Battery:
- Now, it's time to test your potato battery! Make sure all the connections are secure.
- Take the free ends of the wire that are not connected to the batteries and attach them to the terminals of the LED lamp.
Witness the Magic:
- If everything is connected correctly and the chemical reaction is taking place, the LED lamp should light up, showcasing the power of your potato battery!
You know it works when
The LED lamp will light up if everything is well connected. Let the LED lamp light up.
Knowledge and facts about this activity
The potato is not a source of energy; it acts as an electrolyte, helping conduct electricity between the copper and zinc plates. Other fruits, like bananas and strawberries, can also act as electrolytes and create similar chemical reactions. Potatoes were chosen for this experiment because they are widely available and suitable for demonstrating the concept.
Did you know...
- Improperly discarded commercial batteries harm the environment due to heavy metal pollution (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel). Our potato battery offers a more eco-friendly approach!
- If you have a voltmeter, you can measure the voltage produced by your potato battery. Compare it to the voltage of regular batteries you might find at home.
Relevant information if you are facilitating
Some questions you can present the participants about before doing the activity:
- In what ways do we get or create electricity?
- Can we create electricity on our own? How?
- How does a potato battery work?
- Can we create enough power for several lamps? How do we need to get help to do this?
To reflect on:
- We can learn beneficial things from nature.
- You can generate electricity from nature (rivers, wind, sun etc.) that does not run out.
- You still need to turn this power into electricity. It’s not present as electicity as such.
- It is possible to create electricity independently, even at home.
- It was interesting for me to learn about energy in nature using potatoes.
- I can teach others what we learned.