Lemon Battery - Use in School Projects - Variations

Variations

Many fruits and liquids can be used for the acidic electrolyte. Fruit is convenient, because it provides both the electrolyte and a simple way to support the electrodes. The acid involved in citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruits, etc.) is citric acid. The acidity, which is measured by the pH, varies substantially. Potatoes have phosphoric acid, and work well; they are the basis for commercial "potato clock" kits.

Instead of fruit, liquids in various containers can be used. Household vinegar (acetic acid) works well. Sauerkraut (lactic acid) was featured in one episode of the US television program Head Rush (an offshoot of the MythBusters program). The sauerkraut had been canned, and became the electrolyte while the can itself was one of the electrodes.

Zinc and copper electrodes are reasonably safe and easy to obtain. Other metals such as lead, iron, magnesium, etc., can be studied as well; they yield different voltages than the zinc/copper pair. In particular, magnesium/copper cells can generate voltages as large as 1.6 V in lemon cells. This voltage is larger than obtainable using zinc/copper cells. It's comparable to that of standard household batteries (1.5 V), which is useful in powering devices with a single cell instead of using cells in series.

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