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Potato battery science fair project

Another is the "lemon battery" or "potato battery" used to run a flashlight bulb.

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Potato Battery Experiment - How to Make a Potato …

A better name would actually be "Mesopotamia Battery" since Baghdad was not in use at the time, furthermore, the battery was actually not found in Baghdad, but instead near it in an area called in Parthian times, or Salman Pak in modern day Iraq. However, I will stick with Baghdad since this is how the artifacts are now commonly referenced. I also believe the name Baghdad is important since it would be nice if we identified this region of the world with the hope and centers of learning and science that it once embodied, instead of the cauldron of violence that has plagued its more recent chapters in history.

The date range commonly cited for the artifacts spans 600 years - 300 B.C. to 300 A.D., although I suspect the date of origin might be even earlier. During this time, it was common to conquer people in one region and then move the population (particularly skilled workers) to another, so the artifacts may have originated elsewhere and the people producing them simply enslaved and forced into Mesopotamia. In one famous example, the Babylonians conquered and enslaved people inhabiting what is now Israel (in addition to other regions) and brought them to Mesopotamia to compile bits and pieces of religious text from the area to create the Old Testament - it is likely that technology from the conquered societies came too. Or, perhaps a group that inhabited Mesopotamia even earlier in the timeline is the origin of inspiration (e.g. during the Sumerian reign).

The Assyrians (1200 BC to 612 BC) preceded the Babylonians in Mesopotamia, then the Persians conquered the Babylonians, followed by the rise of Macedonian and Seleucid rule over the Persians, then came Parthian rule (Iran), and then Sasanian rule (also Iranian). In the 7th century, Mesopotamia was conquered by Arab armies and under the Abbasid caliphate became known as Baghdad and Iraq - the cultural and commercial center of the Islamic world. Most of my understanding of the regional history was derived from the Metropolitan Museum of Art summaries e.g. , , - clearly from the works of art referenced from their site, the inhabitants were highly skilled craftspeople. The Parthians, who conquered Mesopotamia in 138 B.C. ruled over the region until 224 A.D., and whether right or wrong, is the group often credited with creation of the artifacts in many of the archaeological interpretations - perhaps because their rule sits in the middle of the 600 year span (300 B.C. - 300 A.D.) listed as the artifacts' origin date. However, 600 years is quite a margin of error, and I'd like to better understand the reasoning behind this often quoted range. To further complicate matters, the pottery geometry is thought to be of Sassanid origin (224 to 637 A.D.). Pottery geometry could simply be enforced by whom ever is wielding the biggest stick at the time, with the more relevant construction details being conceived/refined earlier in the timeline.

Who's responsible for creating the artifacts? I don't know, but the history certainly seems rather messy. I would guess the inspiration for the artifacts could have arrived along a number of vectors (e.g. conquered populations external to Mesopotamia, or earlier inhabitants), and it would be presumptuous to give credit to any one group (sociopolitical, ethnic, etc.). I feel inclined to give some attention to the history of the "Baghdad battery" since during my research I observed some rather ignorant comments on Youtube and other locations hosting information regarding the artifacts. Ignoring all the complications with pinpointing the origin of these artifacts, in my understanding of the continuous flux of sociopolitical dynamics and population migrations, I find nationalistic pride rather humorous. Let me know if I misstated any of the history.

It doesn't matter how many books say that lemon batteries can light a flashlight bulb.

We have learned all about circuits today! We learned how they are made, what they are made of and how a current flows. We even learned how to make a potato into a battery! No matter how big or how small a circuit is, it still needs the main three parts we learned about: source, path and load. In our examples: the source was the battery, the paths were the wires and the load was the light bulb.

a couple nails and a piece of wire to make a potato battery.

Try one of these suppliers:To light a bulb, first build a lemon battery and connect it to the terminals of the supercapacitor.

(If not, then remove the bulb and try connecting your lemon cellto the capacitor for 15 minutes to make sure the capacitor gathers enoughenergy.) The capacitor slowly collects electrical energy from the lemonbattery, then it dumps that energy into the flashlight bulb over a veryshort time.

At best we can use several lemons to
If a science book contains the lemon battery bulb-lightning experiment, it means that the author never performed the experiment to see if it works.

Shedding Some Light on the Potato Battery!: Conclusion

By: Rhylie Collins Hypothesis: If 16 potato batteries are connected in
a series, the re-chargeable batteries in the
battery charger will be partially charged
within 2 hours because the potato batteries
will send a weak electric charge to the
charger than to the re-chargeable batteries.

Materials: Conclusion The hypothesis was correct, the string of 16 potato
batteries did produce enough electricity to slightly
charge 2 dead rechargeable batteries.

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How to Make a Potato Battery Clock: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

If "The Scientific Method"listed in a grade school textbook proves that Astronomy is not a science, then it's the textbook which is wrong, not Astronomy.

- Sir Peter Medawar
There are many parts of science that cannot easily be forced into the moldof "hypothesis-experiment-conclusion." Astronomy is not an experimentalscience, and Paleontologists don't perform Paleontology experiments...

To make a potato battery, each group needs: ..

Real scientists use a large varietyof methods (perhaps call them methods of science rather than "TheScientific Method.") Hypothesis / experiment / conclusion is one ofthese, and it's very important in experimental science such as physicsand chemistry, but it's certainly not the only method.

"How to Make a Potato Lightbulb for a Science Project."

Presuming it is a battery, the reproductions I have seen always assumed the following: an acidic electrolyte (lemon juice, red wine vinegar, etc.) with an iron|copper electrode pair contained in a porous unglazed jar. Because the jars and electrodes are present as artifacts, we can assume most aspects of previous reconstructions are accurate, but the evidence for an acid electrolyte or uncoated iron electrode is weaker.

7 mm diameter by 75 mm length iron rod with an Fe3O4 coating instead of uncoated iron
The assumption of an uncoated Iron electrode is perhaps not correct. The artifacts (as I understand from written accounts and a few low resolution photos) show a mixture of black and red colored iron - which I assume is Fe3O4 ('black rust') and Fe2O3 ('red rust'), two of the more common oxidation states for iron. I am far from an expert on Iron Oxides, but from what I understand, Fe3O4 does not typically form over Fe2O3 unless placed in boiling water. As an example, I have not seen black rust (Fe3O4) form on an old car covered with red rust (Fe2O3), but that does not mean it is not possible, I've never buried an iron artifact for 2000 years either. However, Fe2O3 (red rust) can work its way into a layer of Fe3O4. Since photos of the artifacts I have seen show a mixture of Fe2O3 and Fe3O4 on the artifact, in my mind's eye, it implies there was originally a layer of Fe3O4 that was later infiltrated by Fe2O3.
So, I presume the electrodes were Fe3O4 and not plain iron - it certainly was not Fe2O3, since this does not produce a viable cell. Additionally, as shown in Step 6, Fe3O4 produces a better electrode than plain iron, and if this was a rechargeable battery being used for extended periods, the Fe3O4 coating would provide some protection from the formation of Fe2O3. However, the strongest piece of evidence is that iron of this time and shape would have been forged under a high temperature that exceeded the point of decalescence for low carbon iron 425 F-525 F. Beyond the decalescence point, iron will readily form a coating of Fe3O4. So, by choosing an iron rod without Fe3O4, previous replica creators would need to assume that the Fe3O4 was purposefully removed from the iron rod - but we know that most forged objects of this time retained their Fe3O4 coating.
Plain iron would likely oxidize to Fe2O3 (red rust) and this oxidation state does not work well as an electrode. As Fe3O4, the iron is actually protected from the elements and produces a better cell than plain iron, and significantly better than Fe2O3.
As discussed in step 2, iron is easily converted to the Fe3O4 oxidation state - likely through the forging process, but a piece of already rusted iron can also be boiled in water for a few minutes, or iron can simply be immersed in seawater, all methods work fine, and would have been accessible to civilizations 2000 years ago.

A non acid electrolyte and thus a rechargeable cell
The copper electrode is completely oxidized during discharge in the acid chemistry, making for quite a mess (see photo). If an acid electrolyte, the artifacts should show substantial corrosion on the electrodes and in the jar, but none of the archaeological evidence or published accounts I have seen indicated this level of telltale corrosion. The BBC article listed in step 10 mentions corrosion and a test indicating acid, but does not provide any further detail. The corrosion shown in the artifact photographs, actually closely resembles the corrosion patterns I've seen after removing the copper from an alkaline electrolyte (see photo).

If it was an acid chemistry, cider vinegar seems more likely than the lemon juice or red wine vinegar used by some investigators - my understanding is that red wine vinegar was not used in earlier times. Perhaps mashed grapes were used instead, as seen in Arne Eggebrecht's replica demonstration, this would provide tartaric acid, but since acetic acid and citric acid were both known to the Parthians, these are equally possible too. However, an alkaline electrolyte seems just as likely to me, and as I've explained, creates a very interesting battery.

The available construction details also seem to support the possibility of this being an alkaline chemistry. Most investigators, including myself, have wondered why the copper electrode is sealed in the clay jar, since completing a circuit to extract the current is much more difficult - this is puzzling since concealment of the copper electrode does not appear to be necessary with an acid electrolyte. However, with an alkaline electrolyte, the copper electrode is quickly oxidized even when partially exposed to air. Since the artifacts found indicate that the copper was sealed in the vessel with only the iron electrode exposed - this construction detail seems to support the argument for an alkaline electrolyte, not an acid electrolyte, since exposed portions of the copper electrode are less prone to oxidation with an acid electrolyte (see photo).

An acid chemistry means the electrodes are only good for one use. An alkaline electrolyte allows for a rechargeable cell. The cell chemistry is also much less robust with an acid electrolyte, and provides a cell with only 1/5 the capacity of a single charge cycle of the alkaline electrolyte rechargeable cell.

So, maybe I've convinced you this is a rechargeable cell, but how was it charged? Perhaps an - stick two conductors (Copper, Iron, Carbon, etc. all work fine) into the Earth and you will get around a 1.2 V potential with a few mA of current. I charged my replicas using voltage/current that simulates an earth battery.

KOH, an alkaline urine, or perhaps another alkaline substance, are all possible, but my experiments only used KOH. A diet rich in citrus fruits, legumes, and vegetables is known to raise pH and produce urine that is more alkaline - this would have been close to the diet of this time. I've been eating a lot of citrus and legumes lately, so maybe I will retest my urine pH and give it another go. Soap production is claimed to have been present during this time, so it is possible there was familiarity with alkaline chemistries. In my wife's DIY soap book, common lore states that soap was discovered when ash from fire pits drained with the fat from animal renderings into the nearby stream where people washed clothing and other items, and it was noticed clothes were easier to clean - whether this account is true or not, I do not know. However, mixing ash with water is not rocket science. Even today, most KOH is commercially produced by taking the ash form burned wood, soaking in water, and then evaporating the water off to leave KOH crystals. It might make sense to have a pit of water near your night fire, if the ash was raked into the water you should get an alkaline solution that would work well as an electrolyte. Since the Copper sheet was not exposed, the jars may have been placed into a reservoir of this solution (e.g. a hole dug in the Earth filled with urine or ash water) with the iron rod connected to another conductor in the Earth, now you should have an Earth Battery charging station with a ready source of electrolyte replenishment. I'm stretching a little here, but this explanation still seems more plausible than an acid electrolyte. After playing with several replica permutations, I'll reemphasize the electrodes are protected in an alkaline electrolyte, and are oxidized with an acidic electrolyte - furthermore, that the artifacts indicate the copper was isolated in the container, only really matters with an alkaline electrolyte.

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