Do you remember back in school when you used to generate light with a potato in physics class? Back then the short flickering of the light bulb was already a pretty impressive sight. Today it gets even better: a potato can actually power a LED lamp for several days. A reminder for those of you who have hidden this physics lesson in the back of your brain: in oder to generate electricity from a potato, we need not only the potato, but also various metals, namely zinc and copper. These metals trigger a chemical reaction in the potato, which then generates electricity. The scientist Haim Rabinowitch, from the Jerusalem Hebrew University in Israel, discovered that electrons move much more freely in a boiled potato, and thus its efficiency increases considerably. For this reason, in this experiment the potato should have been cooked for 8 minutes. We are using a LED lamp in order to make it light up for longer, as these light bulbs require only a fraction of the energy of a conventional light bulb.
How to generate light with a potato
You will need:
- 2 small boiled potatoes or 1 big potato cut in half
- 2 copper rods (you can also use coins)
- 3 copper cables
- 2 zinc rods (you can also use nails)
- 1 small 1.5 V lamp (or a clock powered by a small battery, as shown in the picture below)
How to make a potato lamp step by step
1. First, attach a copper wire to each of the two copper rods.
2. Next insert the copper rods into each of the potatoes (as shown in the picture below).
3. Attach the third wire to a zinc rod and insert it into one of the potatoes.
4. Take the tip of the wire from one of the copper rods and attach it to the other zinc rod. We have connected the two potatoes together.
5. The zinc rod can then be inserted into the other potato.
6. Now take the two loose ends of the cables (make sure the copper doesn’t come into contact!) and connect it to the light bulb or the clock.
And there was light!
Try your hand at this quick science project! It is very easy and if you do it right, you can make the electricity generated from just one potato last several days!
We can’t wait to see if one day whole households will be powered by potatoes!
Looking for tools to complete your projects? Visit ManoMano for all your DIY, home & garden needs.