Make a Battery from Potato

You might be surprised but potatoes can make a clock work. No, it doesn’t mean they can fix them (not that I know of) but rather power them. When you think about it if they can provide energy to the human body, they might do the same for anything that requires electricity.

Generating potato electricity from something like potato may sound bizarre, but it’s possible. Well, there are many people who are producing green electricity from potatoes for running small items like a clock or a small light bulb.

We all know that the scientists are trying hard to find alternate energy resources that can replace the thermal and the nuclear energies to generate electricity. This is to both save the earth from the negative impact of pollution as well as bring down the costs that one has to bear for the use of electricity.

People are trying new methods from using the wind to the solar power and some of these are even showing great results. There is a real issue on our hands and we need to keep trying in order to find something that can replace the conventional energy resources. The potato electricity voltage we know is not better than that a normal torch cell, but the principle involved can be of great use for the development of more efficient batteries in the future.    

Let’s look at the science behind this innovative energy resource:

Actually, is not hard at all to determine how to make electricity with a potato. Potatoes are made up of the following elements:

  • water
  • starch 
  • sugars
  • trace minerals (plenty of ions)

Since potatoes are mostly water and have lots of ions dissolved in them, they can be used as batteries quite easily. Ions are particles with an electric charge (positive or negative) associated to them. Technically speaking you could use almost any fruit the same way. The ions can now be used to generate electricity by using electrodes. 

How to generate electricity from a potato at home:
We can try a classic potato electricity experiment to illustrate how it works

Essentially we want to turn the potato into a galvanic or voltaic cell. In this type of cell a chemical reaction takes place which results in electricity being produced. 

Step 1- First, generating electricity from potatoes means that you would need:

  • a large potato
  • two wires
  • two metal rods (at least)

Step 1 - Make a potato battery

Following the typical method that is used in a physics lab to generate electricity, we would need different metal rods that can be used as electrodes or carriers of electricity. One of the rods can be a galvanized zinc nail and the other one a cooper nail, penny or anything made of pure copper.

Tip: The conducting rods need to be of different metals. For instance, one rod can be zinc and the other can be copper.

Step 2- Insert a zinc nail and the copper object into the potato battery (that’s how we call it for this experiment). 

Step 2 - Make a potato battery

Make sure the zinc and copper objects are separated from each other. The farther they are from each other, the higher the voltage that is going to be generated.

Step 3- At this point you connect one end of the first wire to the zinc nail and the other end to the negative terminal (-) of the light bulb or clock if you prefer. Then use the second wire to connect the copper rod (or penny) to the positive terminal (+) on the bulb or clock. At that moment the electronic device should turn on (as long as the potato has plenty of ions).

Step 3 - Make a potato battery

The electrons will start moving from the zinc nail all the way through the wire into the electronic device and from the device to the copper object. The electricity will keep flowing until all reactants are spent. Pretty much when all zinc atoms are oxidized to Zn ions and all copper ions are reduced to copper atoms.

Step 4- You might want to use a voltmeter instead of a clock or light bulb in the beginning to make sure there is enough voltage (potential difference) being produced by the potato to turn on the device. 

Step 4 - Make a potato battery

If that’s not enough, several potatoes connected in series as the ones shown in the Image below, might be necessary to turn on the device. 


I am scientist

I am scientist is a result of small effort to make huge impact on children. To stimulate the curiosity of young scientist towards science. Each idea will start with a experiment followed by reasoning the result , scientific learning, vocabulary (recap the big words used), useful reference website and books, along with free downloadable worksheets.

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