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Monday, May 16, 2016

DIY batteries for fun

Some people have made their own batteries as kids, but now that we have had LED lights for years, these low-voltage batteries can be fun to make and be useful once again. DIY batteries can be made from a variety of items. The basic parts of a battery are: cathode, anode, and electrolyte. Batteries are actually made of multiple cells. The instructions down below are actually for one cell. Use different materials to find how many volts and amps it produces. You will need a multimeter, about $12usd online or at the store.

Some people have powered an electric clock with a lemon, or potato. Some have used electrolytes like lemon juice, vinegar, or even salt water. But the secret is in the cathode and anode materials. Usually use a glass or plastic jar to hold the electrolyte.

Here is a selection of DIY batteries you can make from household items. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Battery from carbon rod and zinc strip
  • Copper and aluminum in coke. This has a better description of using different materials and electrolytes, and the voltage output from each trial. 
  • Try magnesium strips (from Ebay) with one other metal, in salt water. Which metal gives the most volts?
  • Stacked cell battery made from copper pennies, silver strips, and paper or cardboard soaked in salt water. This will work well until the paper/cardboard dries out. This says to use nickels, but only US nickels before 1964 contain silver. A medicine bottle might make a good container for these. 
  • Ye olde lemon battery.  
  • Grant Thompson builds a penny battery to power an LED for 2+ weeks.
Sources of materials:
  1. Aluminum: soda cans, aluminum foil, some old house wiring is aluminum. 
  2. Carbon: pencil leads are carbon. Carbon rods are also found in old batteries.  
  3. Copper: use old copper pipes. Sand off any oxidation with fine sandpaper. Use old copper wire. Older US pennies are mostly copper, but newer ones only have a thin coating of copper.
  4. Zinc: galvanized nails are coated in zinc. Zinc strips can be found online. The newer US pennies have a zinc core; sand off the thin copper coating.

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