Electricity has become a necessity in many different aspects in a person’s life. Electricity occurs when the number of protons or electrons in an atom are too high, causing the attraction to particles of the opposite charge. This is how an electrical current occurs. Generally, people know that the electricity that powers their homes come from power plants. However, if all other methods fail one day, there is a way to generate electricity using a general household grocery item: a potato.
Potatoes are a mix of starch and salts. Electric current is conducted between two metals inserted in the potato by forming a salt bridge between them. This occurs because the salt in the potato releases ions, allowing them to travel through the wire connecting the two metals[sc:1][sc:comma][sc:2].
In short, a potato can act as a battery.
The steps to make a potato battery
To start, a light bulb, a large potato, two wires, a galvanized nail, and a copper coin are needed.
- Firstly, insert the nail and the coin into the potato. Make sure that they are as far away as possible from each other. This will allow more ions to travel between the metals, resulting in a higher voltage.
- Attach one end of one wire to the zinc nail and the other end to the negative terminal of the light bulb.
- Attach one end of the second wire to the copper coin and the other end to the positive terminal of the bulb.
- The bulb should light up, provided that they are plenty of ions in the potato.
How does it work?
The copper atoms attract more electrons than the zinc atoms. The electrons are passed from the zinc nail to the copper coin via the salt bridge provided by the wires[sc:3]. By attaching the light bulb to the circuit, the ions pass through the negative and positive terminals of the bulb while moving from the zinc to copper.
There are many other things that the potato battery can power, such as a clock. The process to create a potato battery powered clock is similar to the potato battery powered light bulb. The negative and positive terminals of the light bulb are simply replaced with the negative and positive terminals of the clock. The voltage generated by a potato can also be tested by replacing the light bulb/clock with a galvanometer[sc:4].
A recent study done by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem suggested that a potato that is boiled for eight minutes produces ten times the energy a raw potato can. The study stated that the boiled potato can power a room with LED-lighting system for up to 40 days. Being the world’s fourth most abundant food crop, the potato can now potentially be an alternative power source to underdeveloped and remote areas that do not have access to electricity generators or power grids[sc:2].
It is amazing that a humble crop such as the potato can wield so much of power. It is a source of green energy which is environmentally friendly. With proper implementation, the potato can probably replace fossil fuels as the main source of power in the future.