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Make Electricity from fruits


This project is one of the most famous electricity projects that can be performed successfully by most students in the age of 10 to 16. Since
the same method is used to get energy from many fruits and chemicals, this project has many names. Following are some of the other names
or titles for this project:

1. Fruit power or fruit battery

2. Convert Chemical energy to electrical energy

3. Potato battery or Lemon battery


Making electricity from chemicals is based on the same scientific principles on which all modern batteries work. You insert copper and zinc
electrodes in an acidic liquid and produce some electricity from the chemical reaction between your electrodes and electrolyte. The electricity
produced in this way can be displayed with a multi-meter that can show millivolts. It may also be able to power up a 1.2 Volts light bulb.
Making electricity experiment can be used for many different science projects. Following are some additional research that you can perform in
relation to making electricity from fruits and chemicals.

4. Replace electrodes of your kit with other metals such as coins,

1. Experiment to see which fruits can produce electricity.
nails to see which other metals can be used as electrodes.

2. Experiment to see which fruit juices can produce electricity 5. Test to see if such electrodes can light up a bulb.

3. Experiment to see which other liquids such as detergents and 6. If you have access to a multi meter, check to see how many volts
drinks can produce electricity. electricity is being produced by fruits.

Material and equipment:

Material and equipment that you need for this project are:

1. Copper Electrode
2. Zinc Electrode
3. Multi-meter capable of measuring low voltages
4. Flashlight light bulb 1.2 Volts
5. Screw Base or socket for light bulb
6. Wires
7. Alligator clips
8. Board for mounting the base and the bulb (optional)

Magnet Levitation:

The fact that same magnetic poles repel each other is the base for design of many industrial equipments. Repelling magnets are often part of
another electrical or mechanical system. When you attempt to move the North pole of one magnet toward the North pole of another magnet,
initially the other magnet may be pushed away, but soon it flips over and the South pole of that face and attract your magnet.

Many studies have been done on levitating objects with magnetic force, however it is now proven that 100% levitation for a non moving
object is impossible. Partial levitation is now used in construction of high speed magnetic trains. Many other instruments and equipment also
use repelling properties of magnets.

Following are some of the projects that can be made using magnets with same poles facing each other. They are all applications of magnet

Floating Rings:
In this project you will make a set of magnet rings to float above each other while their balance is maintained using a wood dowel. You will
then examine the flexibility of the floating rings and propose uses for such a floating set of rings.


You will need a base board, a 6" wood dowel or pencil and six ring ceramic magnets, make sure that the wood dowel or pencil fits the hole in
the center of magnets. Also try to get painted magnets. A layer of paint will protect ceramic magnets from chipping.


Mount the pencil or wood dowel vertically in the center of the base board. If you use glue, you will need to wait a few hours until the glue is
fully dry. Place the first ring magnet over the wood dowel and let it go down. Get a second magnet and bring it close to the first magnet to
feel the magnetic forces and find out which two poles repel each other. Then insert this magnet in a way that when it gets to the first magnet,
same poles are faced each other and two magnets will repel. So the second magnet will float.

Continue these steps with the other four magnets. Finally you will have 6 ceramic ring magnets on a column that can
freely move up and down, but gravity force is not able to pull them down because the same poles of magnets are
facing each other. Push the upper magnet down. How much force do you need to put all magnets together? Now
release it. What happens? Why?

Can you use this magnet levitation model to make other products?

Magnetic Spring Scale:

One of the ideas have been a magnetic spring scale. As you see a clear plastic tube is placed
above the upper magnet. Then another plastic tray is placed above the plastic tube. You may
use a paper tube and a paper tray instead. When weight is placed on the tray, the tray goes
down. The amount that it moves depends on the amount of weight. A piece of paper is used
as the indicator hand. Also a Popsicle stick is used to mark the weight.

As you see most of the material can be replaced by other material that you may have around
your home.

Make a Battery from Potato


Batteries generate electricity through a chemical reaction between two different electrodes and one electrolyte. Use of Copper and Zinc
electrodes and Sulfuric acid as electrolyte is a proven method for this process. We are wondering if we can use any other liquid as electrolyte?
This gave us the idea of using a potato as electrolyte. After all a fresh potato has a lot of juice that may serve our purpose as electrolyte.


Can Potato be used to generate electricity?


Potato juice contains many water soluble chemicals that may cause a chemical reaction with one or both of our electrodes. So we may get
some electricity from that.

For this experiment we use:

• A fresh potato
• Copper Electrode
• Zinc Electrode
• A Digital or Analog Multimeter to measure Voltage or Current
of produced electricity.

• Alligator clips/ Leads


We insert copper and zinc electrodes in to the potato, close but not touching each other. We use Clip leads to connect our electrodes to the
Multimeter to measure voltage between two electrodes or current passing through the multimeter. For this experiment we removed the shell
of a broken AA battery for our Zinc electrode. (Make sure to test your multimeter by connecting it's Positive and Negative wires to each other
that should show no current and no voltage).

Record And Analyze Data:

A digital multimeter showed 1.2 volts between the electrodes, but the
analog multimeter showed a much smaller value. In other words even
though the voltage between electrodes is 1.2 Volts, the speed of
production of electricity is not high enough for an analog multimeter to
show the exact voltage.(Analog multimeter gets it's power from our
potato to show the voltage, but digital Multimeter gets it's power from
an internal battery and does not consume any of the electricity
produced by our potato, that is why it shows a larger and more
accurate value).
We repeated this experiment with some other fruits and all resulted
almost the same. In all cases the produced voltage is between 1 and
1.5 volts, and in all cases they do not produce enough current to turn
on a small light.
Another thing that we learned from this experiment is that creating electricity and making a battery is easy,
the main challenge is producing a battery that can continue to produce larger amount of electricity for larger
amount of time.

Make a battery that works with air and saltwater

Introduction: We all know that the world is now facing an energy crisis and everyone is trying to do something about that. Now you can
show everyone that electrical energy or electricity can be made from air and saltwater. After all, both the air and the saltwater are freely
available everywhere. These are the two things that we have plenty of them.

This may seem impossible. I could not believe it myself the first time that I
heard about it. It almost sounds like a magic trick. Finally, I decided to test
it anyway.

I tried different concentrations of salt water, different temperatures, and

different electrodes and had no success. It took me a few months thinking
about it until I solved the problem in my mind and decided to repeat my
tests again. This time everything worked fine and I was able to make
enough electricity to light up a small light bulb.

The concept is easy. The same way that you burn wood and make heat energy, you should be able to burn metals and get electricity (or
electrical energy). The difference is that you are not really burning anything; instead, you are producing a condition for oxidization which by
itself is the same as slow burning. So what you really do is oxidizing iron in saltwater using the oxygen from the air or any other source. (At
least, that’s my theory at this time)

I don’t know if this method of producing electricity is economical and cost effective. What I know is that it is worth to try. If with one cup of
salt water and some metals I was able to light up a small light bulb, maybe you can light up the entire building by a tank of salt water and a
few hundred pounds of scrap metal.
No matter what is the results, I am proud that I can make an emergency battery for myself if I need it.

It took me a long time to make the first working battery using the salt water; however, you don’t have to waste that much time. I have
combined the results of all my experiments and made a recipe for success. Just follow the instructions and you will get results in the first try.

List of materials:

This is the minimum list of material you need for your experiment.

1. Miniature light bulb (low voltage, low current)

2. Miniature base for light bulb
3. Pair of insulated solid copper wire AWG=20
4. Pair of alligator clips
5. Magnesium Electrode
6. Iron Electrode (not in the picture/ Use steel wool as iron electrode.)
7. A cup of saltwater (not in the picture)
8. Screws for the miniature base.
9. plastic container
10. wooden board
11. iron

12. hydrogen peroxide

Additional optional materials you may use:

1. A wooden board to mount the miniature base (light holder)

2. Plastic container about 4" x 4" x 4"
3. Hydrogen Peroxide

What is a good title for my project?

You can call it "Air battery", "Salt water battery", "electricity from air" or "electricity from the salt water".


1. Remove the plastic insulation of about one inch from both ends of the wires.
2. Loosen the screw on both contacts of the bulb holder. Place one end of the red wire under one screw, make a loop and then tighten
the screw. Place one end of the black wire under the other screw, make a loop and then tighten the screw.
3. Pass the open end of the red wire through the arm of the red alligator clip and secure it under the screw.
4. Pass the open end of the black wire through the arm of the black alligator clip and secure it under the screw.
5. Screw the light bulb on the miniature base.
6. Connect the red alligator clip to the iron electrode and secure it on one side of the plastic container or the cup.
7. Connect the black alligator clip to the magnesium electrode and secure it on the opposite side of the container. (You may need to
hold them by hand or use a small tape to hold them in place on the side of the container.
8. In another pitcher, prepare some strong, warm salt water. Add enough salt so at the end some salt will be left at the bottom of the
9. Transfer the salt water from the pitcher to the container.
10. At this time, if all the connections are secure and the electrodes are large enough, you should get a light.

How can I get more light?

1. Make sure your electrodes are not touching each other.

2. Make sure there is nothing blocking the space between the electrodes.
3. Make sure that the alligator clips are not touching the salt water.

4. Both electrodes must have the maximum possible surface contact with salt

The test tube electrodes (magnesium electrodes in test tubes) are formed like a spring. This provides the largest possible surface contact. For
Iron electrode you may use steel wool. Steel wool has a very large surface contact. A steel screen may work as well.

You may notice that you will get more light if you stir the solution or if you remove the iron electrode and insert it back again. Such actions
provide oxygen to the surface of the iron.
Note: Steel is about 98% iron.

The oxygen in the air may not be enough for your demonstration and you may get a dim light.

In this case you may add some oxygen (in the form of hydrogen peroxide) to the salt water. That
should immediately increase the light.

A cup is relatively small. If you have access to a larger container, you will get a better result.
In a larger container, it is easier to secure the electrodes in two opposite sides so they will
not touch each other.

The electricity produced in this way may be used to light up a light bulb, an LED or run a low voltage electric motor.

Pencil Resistors

Project Summary

Difficulty 2

Time required Very Short (a day or less)

Prerequisites None

Material Availability Readily available

Cost Very Low (under $20)

Safety Requires adult supervision


Want to know how electrical engineers "trap" the energy in a circuit to make your favorite electrical appliance? Video games, computers,
phones, and many other electrical devices use "resistors" in different ways to control the electricity in a circuit. In this experiment, you can
make your own resistors out of pencils, and test the effect a resistor has on a circuit.

In this experiment you will test if the length of a pencil resistor effects the output of a circuit.


The existence of electricity has been known since the ancient Greeks used to rub pieces of amber with fur to make static electricity. Benjamin
Franklin is credited with the first demonstration that the electricity in lightening and static electricity are the same in his famous, but very
dangerous experiment. It took hundreds of years for thinkers, inventors and scientists to learn how to control and harness the power of

The first great achievement was the discovery of the concept of a circuit in 1800 by an Italian named Alessandro Volta. He showed that
electricity flows through a circuit, and that a circuit needs to be complete, or closed, in order to work. He also invented the first battery, and
we use the word Volt to identify the units of electricity.

In 1820, André-Marie Ampère published his explanation of Hans Christian Orsted's discovery that magnetic needles could be deflected by an
electric current. Ampère's work, later refined by James Clerk Maxwell, firmly established the connection between electricity and magnetism.
The movement of electricity through a circuit is called "current", and we measure the current flowing through a circuit in Amperes (often
abbreviated "amps").

The next great discovery was by a German school teacher named Georg Simon Ohm in 1826, who had been a student of Volta. He discovered
that some materials slowed down, or resisted, the movement of electricity. He found out that there was a relationship between the amount of
electricity in a circuit, the movement of electricity through the circuit and the resistance of the circuit. The unit for resistance, Ohms, is named
in his honor.

Even though Volta, Ampère and Ohm had paved the way for the first circuits, a real use for electricity still had not been shown and it was
mainly a novelty. The first useful invention using electricity was the electric telegraph in 1832, which was used to send messages by code
over long distances. But the first practical invention using electricity was the incandescent light bulb by Thomas Edison in 1877.

Electricity is a very important part of our modern world and none of the modern technology we use today could exist without it. All of our
modern day gadgets, appliances and electronics use the power of electricity to work. It is the careful balance of parts of a circuit, batteries,
wires and resistors; and the completeness of a circuit, which allow electricity to be useful, and not harmful.

In this experiment you will put these pieces together to build your own simple circuit and use it to investigate resistors. What do resistors do,
and why are they useful? How will changing the size of the resistor effect the circuit? By varying the size of the resistor, and looking at the
effect on a light bulb, we will determine how resistors work in a circuit.

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

To do this type of experiment you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the internet, or take you to
your local library to find out more!

• electricity

• circuit

• resistor

• current

• conductor

• insulator

Materials and Equipment

• #2 pencils

• insulated alligator clip set

• 9 V battery

• 9 V battery connector (optional)

• small light bulb rated at 9 V

• small light bulb holder

• ruler

• automatic pencil sharpener

• popsicle stick

• a coping saw (you will need your parents help with this)
Experimental Procedure

Note Before Beginning: This science fair project requires you to hook up one or more devices in an electrical circuit. Basic help can be found
in the Electronics Primer. However, if you don't have experience in putting together electrical circuits you may find it helpful to have someone
who can answer questions and help you troubleshoot if your project isn't working. A science teacher or parent may be a good resource. If you
need to find another mentor, try asking a local electrician, electrical engineer, or person whose hobbies involve building things like model
airplanes, trains, or cars. You may also need to work your way up to this project by starting with an electronics project that has a lower level of

1. Set up your circuit board that you will use to test your resistors. You will need three pieces of wire with an alligator clip at each end.
You can make your own, or you can buy an insulated alligator clip lead set from a store like Radio Shack.
2. Take one wire and attach one end to one terminal of the battery by clipping the alligator clip securely to one of the terminals.
3. Attach the other end of that wire to one terminal of the light bulb holder contact screw using the alligator clip.
4. Using a new wire, attach one end to the other contact screw of the light bulb holder with the alligator clip.
5. Screw the light bulb securely into the light bulb holder.
6. Your set up should be similar to the one in this picture:

7. Before you start your experiment, you need to make sure your circuit works. Touch the two ends of the empty alligator clips to each
other, making sure to hold onto the insulated sleeve so you won't get a shock. Does your light turn on? If it does, move on to the
next step. If not, go back to step number 1 and check over your circuit to see if everything is connected correctly.
8. Next you will make your pencil resistors to test in your circuit. You will be making several different resistors of different sizes by
cutting pencils to different lengths and sharpening both ends of the pencil. You will need your parent's help for this part.
9. With your parent's help and using a small coping saw, cut the pencils to different lengths. The pencil lengths for this experiment
should offer a nice variety of small to large sizes, and be at regular intervals, such as 2 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches, etc...
10. After you cut each pencil, use the pencil sharpener to sharpen both ends of the pencil fragment. Don't worry about changing the
lengths of your pencils, because you will be measuring them in the next step.
11. Use a ruler to measure each piece of pencil from tip to tip of the sharpened pencil lead. Remember to write down and keep a record
of your results!

Length of Pencil:
(measured in cm)

Brightness of Light:
(off, low, medium, high)

12. Next, place each pencil resistor one at a time into the circuit between the alligator clips by clipping onto the pencil lead portion at the
tip of each end of the pencil. It is important to make sure the clips are attached to the graphite and not to the wood, because wood
is an insulator and is not a conductive material.

13. Look at the light each time you connect one of your pencil resistors to the circuit. Make a record of your observation, and try to use a
number scale to describe what you see. For example, you might use a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is dark and 5 is bright.
14. Remember that piece of wire and that wooden popsicle stick? These are your "control" groups. Put them into your circuit and rate
them using the same method and scale you used to test your pencils. The extra piece of wire is the "positive control." The popsicle
stick is called a "negative control."


This experiment can be just the beginning to having fun building your own circuits. Here are many ways to make your experiment unique:

• Try using the same circuit set-up to test different materials around your house to see if they are insulators or conductors. You might
be surprised that some common household materials can be tricky to predict!

• In our experiment, we are using a battery as a source of energy. How do you think different kinds of batteries would work in this
circuit? Can you make a hypothesis of how the strength of the battery would relate to the length of pencil you could use?
• Can you think of a way to rearrange this circuit to make a battery tester? Try testing batteries around your house with your Battery

• Can you think of other energy sources to use for this experiment? Try using a solar cell, or a wind vane...

• Advanced. A light is just one way to test the amount of resistance in the circuit. Another more careful way is to use Ohm's law.
First, use a digital multimeter to measure the voltage drop across the pencil. Set the multimeter to read DC volts. With your circuit
connected, and the light bulb on, touch the positive probe (red) of the multimeter to the clip on the side of the pencil connected to
the positive terminal of the battery. Touch the ground probe (black) of the multimeter to the clip on the side of the pencil connected
to the negative terminal of the battery. Write down the voltage reading. Next, measure the current, or flow of electricity in the
circuit. The multimeter should be connected in series with pencil resistor and the light bulb, and the multimeter should be set to read
DC current. Write down the current reading. Now you can calculate the resistance of the pencil, in Ohms, by dividing the voltage, in
volts, by the current, in amperes. This method will give you more accurate data of the effect of your pencil resistors on the voltage
supplied to the light bulb.

Making Batteries from Fruits and Vegetables

Project Summary

Difficulty 4 – 7

Time required Short (several days)

Prerequisites None

Material Availability Readily available

Cost Low ($20 - $50)

Safety Do not eat the fruit or vegetables that have been used to make batteries!


Did you know that you can get electricity out of a potato? In this project you will learn how do build a simple battery using a variety of
different fruits and vegetables - REALLY! You'll be able to figure out things like: How many lemons does it take to turn on a light bulb? Does
an orange make a better battery than a potato? Can you use each segment of a grapefruit to make a super-grapefruit battery? You will also
learn some of the basics of electricity and circuits: What is voltage? What is current? What is resistance? How much power can you get out of
a veggie battery? Does an orange battery run out of "juice"? So, do a little produce shopping and then learn about batteries and electricity.


The goal of this project is to make batteries from fruits and vegetables using metal electrodes. You will use a digital voltmeter along with
resistors and other loads to determine the voltage, current, and power that your batteries can produce.


Batteries are like mini power plants that derive electrical energy from chemical reactions. You can make batteries with some pretty simple
everyday materials. In general, all you need are:

• two different kinds of metal to act as electrodes (though not just any kind of metals will work),

• a liquid solution, called the electrolyte, which will react chemically with the metal electrodes, and

• a way to conduct the electricity from the metal electrodes to something that is using the energy that the battery provides.

Different kinds of batteries will have different characteristics. Some produce different voltages than others—like a flashlight battery at 1.5
volts and a car battery that is typically about 12 volts. Some can deliver a lot of current, and some will deliver less current. You'll learn more
about voltage and current as you work on this project, but as you might already know, some things won't work at all unless the battery can
provide a high enough voltage. Once this voltage is applied some things will draw more current from the battery than others. Current is a
measure of how many electrons are flowing per second. The more electrons that flow per second (or the higher the current) the faster the
battery will discharge. Also, if the item that your are trying to power with the battery tries to draw two much current then the voltage of the
battery will drop and again the item might not work.

Many batteries are made up of more than one battery cell, also called a voltaic cell. When these voltaic cells are hooked up in series (see
Figure 1, below), the voltage of the battery becomes the sum of the voltages provided by each cell. Car batteries typically have six cells, each
producing about 2 volts, which added together provides a 12-volt battery. (This is why you see six little caps on most car batteries, allowing
you to add water to each of the six cells.) The battery below is made up of 4 1.5 V cells in series, producing 6 V total.

Figure 1. Pictorial (top) and schematic (bottom) diagrams of batteries connected in series. Connecting battery cells in series increases the total
voltage available. The total current available remains equal to the current of a single cell.

If a battery or a voltaic cell doesn't provide enough current, you can connect a number of batteries or cells together in parallel (see Figure 2
below). This keeps the total voltage the same, but now the total current that can be provided is the sum of the currents from each of the
cells. Another reason to connect more cells or batteries together in parallel is so that they will power an item for a longer time before
discharging. You'll learn more about this as you work on this project.

Figure 2. Pictorial (top) and schematic (bottom) diagrams of batteries connected in parallel. Connecting battery cells in parallel increases the
total current available. The total voltage available remains equal to the voltage of a single cell.

Probably one of the most interesting things about batteries is the way that different materials and the way in which they are used can affect
the characteristics of the battery. This means they can affect the output voltage and the amount of current that the cell can deliver. They can
also affect something called the "internal resistance" of the battery. A battery cell made with a potato might provide a different amount of
current than a battery cell made with a lemon or an onion. Battery cells made with different electrode materials, like copper, nickel, or zinc
might produce different voltages. Batteries with different electrode shapes or surface areas might have different internal resistances. You will
learn that the way the battery cells are made and connected with each other will determine if you can generate enough voltage and current to
run a portable radio, a digital clock, or whatever small electronic device you choose to try.

So, go to the grocery store, buy some fruits and vegetables and then have some fun!

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:

• voltage, current, resistance, energy, and power;

• parallel and serial connections of power sources (batteries) and loads (resistors);

• Ohm's law;

• operation of a volt/current meter (also called a multi-meter);

• resistor values and color codes;

• batteries and the chemistry of batteries.

More advanced students should also study:

• voltage dividers,

• internal resistance of a battery,

• Kirchoff's laws, and

• ionic bonds.
Materials and Equipment

Here some basic materials that can be used. However, you should use your imagination and try some others.

1. Electrodes: The easiest materials to use with vegetable and fruit batteries are probably zinc-coated nails and copper wires. Nails are
easy because you can just stick them into the fruit. It is also possible to push coins into some vegetables, like a potato.

o about 20 large (~3 in long) zinc-coated ("galvanized") nails;

Note: you can get zinc coated nails at almost any hardware store where they are usually referred to as galvanized nails.

o galvanized metal squares (optional);

Note: you can get small rectangular pieces of galvanized sheet metal at the hardware store. These can be cut with tin-snips
into strips approximately 1/2 in × 3 in that will make even better electrodes than nails.

o 3 feet of 12 gauge bare copper wire.

Note: You will be cutting this wire into segments of about 3 in to use as copper electrodes. As with the galvanized metal, if
you can find small sheets of copper and cut them into 1/2" in × 3 in strips, these will make even better electrodes.
2. Wires and connectors to hook up the various electrodes:

o 10–20 jumper leads (with alligator clips), available at Radio Shack. Note: in many cases you can use the alligator clips to
connect up to the battery terminals of an electronic device you'd like to try. If you need additional connector(s) for your
electronic devices, Radio Shack is a good place to try.
3. Fruits and vegetables to provide the electrolyte liquid:

o potatoes,

o citrus fruits,

o onions,

o whatever!

You will probably need more than one of each. In some cases you can cut them into multiple pieces to make more than one cell.

4. Various loads to hook up to the batteries:

o various resistors (you can get a pack of assorted resistors at Radio Shack),

o other loads.
Note: These are things like battery-operated timers, calculators, low power buzzers, 3-volt radio, etc. For example, Radio
Shack has a package of 3 calculators for $7; a piezo buzzer, 3–28 V, 5 mA for $4, and an ear-plug FM radio for $2.) It is
best to look for items that run at 3 volts or less. Also, look for things that draw less than 0.5 mA (500 μA). These will be
things that run on small watch-like batteries. It is best to use only things that you're willing to destroy in the process. Some
things, like the buzzer mentioned above, will work "partially." The buzzer works; it just isn't very loud.
5. Tools:

o voltmeter or multimeter,
Note: you will need a volt meter or multi-meter. If you don't have one or cannot borrow one, they range in price from about
$14 to several hundred dollars. Radio Shack has them, as do most hardware stores. You can get analog or digital meters.
The digital meters are easier to read, but are a little more expensive. The lower-priced meters will work pretty well for this
experiment. In general, look for a meter that will measure volts and resistance. If you can find a meter that measures
current on a 200 μA scale this could be useful, but it is not really necessary. In general, the price starts to go up as you look
for meters that can measure smaller amounts of current.

o wire cutters,

o tin snips (optional),

o soldering iron and rosin-core solder (optional).

Experimental Procedure

Safety note: do not eat the fruit or vegetables that have been used to make batteries!

To get you started, here are two simple experimental procedures to make one- and two-cell batteries. You'll see how to increase the available
voltage by connecting individual cells in series. There are many more ideas in the Variations section (below) to get you thinking about
experiments you can design for yourself.

Experiment 1

How much voltage can be generated using a zinc-copper potato cell? How does the voltage change as you hook up different loads (values of
resistance) across the terminals of the potato battery?
1. Create a voltaic cell by poking one zinc (galvanized) nail and one copper wire (3 in) into each end of a potato. The buried ends of the
electrodes can actually be pretty close together (maybe an inch apart), but they should not touch each other. The zinc nail will
become the "−" or negative terminal of the battery (also called the anode) and the copper wire will become the "+" or positive
terminal of the battery (also called the cathode).
2. Hook up the voltmeter across this voltaic cell by connecting the "+" terminal of the voltmeter to the copper wire and the "−" or
"common" terminal to the zinc nail.

3. Measure and record the voltage. This voltage is referred to as the open-circuit voltage, because this is the voltage present when
nothing is connected across the terminals of the battery—the circuit is "open". (For more information on using a multimeter, see the
Science Buddies page Using a Multimeter.)
4. While leaving the voltmeter connected across the battery, use the wire jumpers to connect a 10 kohm resistor across the battery
terminals. Record the voltage.
5. While leaving the first resistor in place, connect another 10 kohm resistor across the battery. Record the voltage.

You will note that the voltage dropped as you connected the loads (the resistors) across the battery. This is because current is being drawn
through each of the resistors and the total current that is drawn also has to flow through the internal resistance of the battery. For this simple
"veggie" battery cell the internal resistance is pretty high, so a noticeable portion of the battery cell's voltage is dropped across its internal
resistance. This in turn reduces the amount of voltage that you measure at the terminals of the battery.

Experiment 2

How much voltage can be generated using two zinc-copper voltaic potato cells hooked up in series? Can this be used to power up something
like a calculator or a low-voltage (ear-plug) transistor radio?

1. Create two separate cells like the one in Experiment 1, step 1, above. If you are using large potatoes, you can cut them into pieces
and then use each piece as a separate cell.
2. Measure and record the open-circuit voltage of each of the cells.
3. Using jumper leads hook these two cells up in series to make a two-cell battery. (Note: Figure 1 in the Introduction shows how to
connect cells in series.)
4. Measure and record the open-circuit voltage of the two-cell battery.

You should find that each individual cell has an open-circuit voltage of about 0.75 volts. When you connect the cells in series and measure the
open-circuit voltage of the two-cell battery you should measure about 1.5 volts (maybe a little less). Now this is a battery that you can
actually use to power any electronic device that is designed to operate at about 1.5 volts and that does not draw too much current. You will
find that this means it will probably only power up things that will run on small watch-sized or calculator-sized batteries.

On Your Own

Working with veggie batteries is a lot more fun and interesting if they actually do something! Try powering up a calculator (see Figure 3,
below) or maybe a small buzzer or low-voltage transistor radio.

Figure 3. Running an electronic calculator on veggie power! This is an illustration of a multi-cell veggie-power battery, described in
Experiment 2, above.

There are even talking greeting cards that you might be able to find. You might need to get some help opening up the back of the calculator
or other device and getting wires attached to the electrodes that normally hold the battery. (If you find that you need to solder a connector,
the Science Buddies resource Electronics Primer: How to Solder Electronic Components has some helpful tips on using a soldering iron and
making good, lasting connections between electrical components.) See the Variations section (below) for more ideas to get you thinking about
experiments you can design for yourself.

There are many factors that can affect the performance of batteries and many variations can be done on the simple experiments suggested
above. Here are some things you might think about to lead you to other variations that you can devise on your own. These are not listed in
any particular order. They are just a number of different things you might think about or try.

1. How does varying the amount of load (resistance placed across the battery terminals) affect the voltage and current output from the
2. By applying different loads on a battery can you determine its internal resistance? (See the references on internal resistance in the
Bibliography, above.) What do you think you could do to lower the internal resistance of veggie cell battery? (For some ideas, see
Variations 3, 4, and 5 below.)
3. With a particular set of electrodes and electrolytes, the battery voltage should be about the same (when driving high-resistance
loads). Are there things that can be done with the configuration of a voltaic cell to change the amount of current that it can deliver
before the voltage drops considerably? Does the distance between the electrodes matter? If so, why? Does the surface area of the
electrodes in contact with the electrolyte matter? If so, why?
4. How do other materials affect the characteristics of the battery? For example:

o What happens if you use other kinds of fruit or vegetables?

o What happens if you use different metals for the electrodes?

o Would the battery work with just vegetable juice? How about just vinegar or salt water?

5. Increase the number cells that you hook up in parallel, or in series, or both. How does this affect the voltage and current that the
battery can deliver? Can you predict based on the characteristics of a one-cell battery how a given configuration of similar cells
hooked up in series or parallel will behave? Could you build a multiple-cell battery that would power up a flashlight light bulb? How
about a 9-volt transistor radio? How many cells in parallel and/or series would this take? (Remember for something like a transistor
radio you have to provide both the right voltage and sufficient current.)
6. In general, given the specifications (voltage and current requirements) for a load (the thing that you are trying to power up with the
battery), can you predict how may cells (of a given configuration) it will take to power the load?
7. How much power can a particular veggie cell or battery produce?
8. How long does it take for a veggie battery to run out of "juice" (electrical juice that is)? Why does it run out?
9. Using fruits and vegetables (or pieces of them), can you think of other physical configurations that will make good batteries? How
about a little piece of potato sandwiched between a penny and 1-inch squares of galvanized (zinc) sheet metal? Can you stack up
these penny-potato-zinc cells to create a higher voltage battery?

Solar-Powered Water Desalination


Here is a cool project about making fresh water from salt water using solar power. The apparatus is made from readily available materials,
and the power source is free. How much water can the device produce, and by how much is the salt concentration reduced? Can you figure
out ways to make the collection efficiency even higher? This is a great project for inventive thinkers.


The goal of this project is to build and test a solar-powered device for desalinating water.


Nicholas Kinsman is interested in inventing solar-powered devices to reduce our dependence on other energy sources. He's also a winner of a
Science Buddies Clever Scientist award for his 2007 California State Science Fair project (Kinsman, 2007). Nicholas set out to build a simple,
inexpensive device to desalinate sea water, using readily available materials and easy construction methods.

Typical sea water contains dissolved salts at concentrations between 32 and and 37.5 parts per thousand. That means that if you started with
one kilogram of sea water and then you allowed all of the water to evaporate, you'd be left with between 32 and 37.5 grams of salts (also
called "total dissolved solids").

With all of that salt, sea water is not suitable for drinking nor for watering most plants. The fluid circulating in your body (blood plasma),
contains much less salt than sea water (on the order of 9 grams of total dissolved solids). If you were to drink sea water, your body would
actually lose water, because the high salt concentration of the sea water causes an osmotic pressure gradient which drives water out of your
cells. Desalination is the process of removing the dissolved salts from water, making it pure enough for drinking or irrigation.

Nicholas's first design for a desalination device is shown in Figure 1. There are eight small bottles surrounding the large collection bottle. Each
of the small bottles is filled with sea water. The small bottles have holes in their caps. One end of a flexible straw is inserted into the hole,
and the other connects to the large collection bottle at the center. The idea is that the sea water in the small bottles heat up in the sun, the
water vapor then condenses in the straws and flows down into the collection bottle. Unfortunately, the idea did not work. You can see in the
picture that there is condensation on the inside of the top of the bottle, but there was very little condensation in the straws.
Figure 1. This is Nicholas's first try at a solar-powered desalination device. The idea was to add salt water to the eight small bottles. The
condensation was supposed to drip down from the straws into the large collection bottle. Unfortunately, this design did not work. (Photo from
Nicholas Kinsman's display board at the fair.)

Like any good inventor, Nicholas did not let an initial setback make him discouraged. He analyzed what was wrong with the design and set
out to improve it. His second design (see Figure 2) still follows the same principles of using readily available materials and easy construction
methods. This time, Nicholas has increased the surface area for collecting condensed water vapor and improved the efficiency of the device
for collecting the condensate.

Figure 2. Here are two examples of Nicholas's second design for a solar-powered desalination device. The large bottle, laying on it's side, holds
the sea water. The top side of the bottle has been cut out with a utility knife. Plastic cling wrap seals the top side, and a quarter is used as a
weight to make a low point in the center. Beneath that low point, Nicholas placed a collector, made from the top of a small water bottle with a
flexible straw inserted into a hole in the cap. The other end of the straw passes through the side of the large bottle, and then to a plastic cup
where the condensate collects. The device on the right has no reflector, the one on the left has an aluminum foil reflector covering the back
side and bottom of the large bottle. (Science Buddies photo of Nicholas Kinsman's display board at the fair.)

In the improved design a large bottle is used to hold the salt water. The bottle is laid on one side, and the top side is cut out, using a utility
knife. Then the top is covered tightly with plastic cling wrap. The cling wrap provides a large surface area on which condensation can form. A
quarter is used as a weight to make a low point at the center of the cling wrap. The drops of condensation will eventually flow down to this
point and drip into the collector below. The collector is simply the cut-off top of a small water bottle, with a flexible straw inserted into a hole
cut in the cap. The other end of the straw passes through a small hole in the large bottle, and then to a plastic cup (tightly covered with cling
wrap to prevent evaporation).

For his science fair project, Nicholas tested the desalination devices with and without aluminum foil reflectors (you can see examples of each
type in Figure 2). He made three devices of each type, so that he could test them all under identical weather conditions. For each device, he
made several measurements so that he could compare the performance, including:

1. Amount of condensate collected

2. Temperature of the salt water
3. Temperature of the collected condensate
4. Conductivity of the salt water
5. Conductivity of the collected condensate

The temperature and volume measurements told him how efficient his devices were at heating the salt water and producing desalinated
water. The conductivity measurements told him how well the condensed water had been purified of dissolved salt.

When salts dissolve in water, they dissociate (split apart) into ions. Ions are atoms or molecules with a net charge. The charge can be positive
or negative. An example is sodium chloride (NaCl), ordinary table salt. In water, sodium chloride dissociates into positively charged sodium
ions (Na+) and negatively charged chloride ions (Cl−). Water that contains dissolved salt can conduct electricity. More salt in the water means
more ions, and more ions means that it is easier for the electricity to flow. In other words, the more salt that is dissolved in the water, the
higher the conductivity of the water. An easy way to measure conductivity is with a handheld meter that you dip into the water (see the
Materials & Equipment section, below).
You can repeat Nicholas's experiment yourself (as described below), or you can try to improve his design even further. The Variations section
below has some ideas to get your inventive imagination started.

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:

• Ions

• Conductivity

• Total Dissolved Solids

• Parts per thousand (ppt)

• Desalination

• Evaporation

• Condensation

• Solar oven

Materials and Equipment

To do this experiment you will need the following materials and equipment:

• Sea water

o Alternatively, you can make your own salt water by adding 30 g of salt to each liter of water

o If you don't have a scale for weighing out salt, one cup of salt is approximately 292 g (, 2006)

• 6 large (1 gallon or 4 L size) water jugs

• 6 water bottles (1 pint or 500 mL size) water bottles

• Plastic cling wrap

• Aluminum foil

• 6 Flexible plastic straws

• 6 Plastic cups

• 6 Rubber bands

• Modeling clay (small amount)

• 6 quarters (as weights for plastic wrap

• Metric measuring cup (or kitchen scale)

• Conductivity meter

o There are many conductivity meters on the market.

o A relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use model is the Extech EC400 (also called an "Exstik® II.")

o The EC400 measures conductivity, total dissolved solids (TDS)

o You can find this from several different online retailers (do a web search for "Extech EC400"). Prices are in the $80–$90
range (as of June, 2007, not including shipping)

• Utility knife with a fresh blade

• Optional: hand drill and drill bit (for making holes in caps)

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Experimental Procedure

1. Do your background research so that you are knowledgeable about the terms, concepts, and questions, above.
2. Build six identical desalination devices, using the illustrations and descriptions of the experimental apparatus from the Introduction
as a guide. Here are some tips:
a. Work carefully with the utility knife. Using a new, sharp blade will make the job easier.
b. Be careful with your fingers around the cut edges of the bottle: they will be sharp!
c. The plastic cling wrap covering the cut-out top of the large bottle needs to seal tightly. Otherwise water vapor will be able to
escape, instead of condensing on the plastic.
d. Remember to cover your collection cups tightly or the condensate will evaporate.
e. To prevent evaporative losses, you can use modeling clay to seal the around the straws where they pass through holes.
f. Add aluminum foil reflectors to three of the devices, and leave three without reflectors (see Figure 2, above).
g. Cut a hole near the top of the side of each device for access for the conductivity meter. Cover the hole with a tightly balled-
up piece of plastic wrap when you are not making measurements, to prevent evaporation.
3. Test the performance of the devices.
a. Set them up at the same time, in a location where they will all receive direct sunlight for the entire duration of the
b. Use the same amount of salt water in each of the devices.
c. Check the initial conductivity and temperature of the salt water in each device.
d. Check the conductivity and temperature of the salt water at occasional intervals throughout the experiment.
e. Measure the volume of the collected condensate at the end of the experiment by pouring it into a Pyrex® measuring cup or
graduated cylinder.
f. Check the conductivity of the collected condensate at the end of the experiment.
4. How does the conductivity of the condensate compare to the conductivity of the starting salt water? To normal tap water?
5. What was the average amount of condensate collected for each device?
6. Did the reflector improve the performance of the devices in terms of amount produced?
7. Taking 3 liters as the minimum required amount of drinking water per person per day (NAS, 2004), how many devices would you
need to produce enough water for your survival needs? You can divide the volume of condensate by the total time of the experiment
to get an average collection rate (mL/hour).


• In this experiment you compared the performance of desalination devices with and without an aluminum foil reflector. What do you
think would happen if you used a black wrapper (e.g., aluminum foil painted black) on the bottom side of the desalination device?

• How does the collection rate change during the course of the day? For this experiment, it would be a good idea to have your
collection container marked with graduated volumes. That way you can measure collection volumes easily without disturbing the
collection system.

• Solar ovens are easy to build and can be very efficient for heating water when well-designed. The Science Buddies project Now
You're Cooking! shows how to build a solar oven. Can you adapt a solar oven to make a solar-powered desalination device? Is it
more or less efficient than the plastic bottle desalination device from this project?