Start of main content
Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 60 or more mins
  • D&T
  • Engineering

How to make a potato battery

Making a potato powered light

As global warming becomes more of a problem worldwide, finding sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity is becoming increasingly important. Could potatoes be the answer?!

In this fun experiment, students will embrace the spirit of National Earth Day as they embark on a journey to design and construct a potato battery capable of illuminating an LED. This project fosters hands-on learning and serves as a pivotal lesson to educate about the advantages of renewable energy sources and the criticality of seeking alternatives to fossil fuels.

This activity can seamlessly integrate into a comprehensive curriculum centred on energy generation, sustainability, design and technology, and engineering, enhancing the understanding of these essential subjects. Let’s harness the power of potatoes to shine a light on a greener, brighter future!

Activity introduction

This resource is part of a collection of free STEM resources specifically curated for KS3 to enable learners to explore key topics in design & technology, mathematics, and science through the lens of seasonal themes. Focusing on National Earth Day, this resource empowers students to connect with important concepts while fostering a deeper understanding of sustainability and environmental awareness.

Depending on the available resources and equipment, this activity could be completed individually, in pairs or in small groups.

What you will need

Per learner, pair or small group:

  • 4 Potatoes
  • 3 Red crocodile clips
  • 2 Black crocodile clips
  • 4 Coins (2p/1p)
  • 4 Zinc plated nails
  • Light emitting diode (LED)

How long will this activity take?

This activity will take approximately 60-90 minutes to complete. Download the activity sheet and teacher presentation for a step-by-step guide on how to complete this potato lightbulb experiment.

The science behind the experiment

Creating a battery from organic materials is surprisingly simple. All you require are two metals: a negative electrode known as the anode, like zinc, and a positively charged electrode known as the cathode, such as copper. Inside the potato, the acid triggers a chemical reaction between zinc and copper. This energy transfer releases power as electrons flow from one material to the other. With just a few components and the wonders of chemistry, you can harness the energy from a potato to power your devices!

The engineering context

Engineers bear a social and moral obligation to consider the environmental implications while tackling design challenges.

The renewable energy sector stands as one of the most rapidly expanding industries in engineering. Therefore, understanding methods to generate greener energy is indispensable for individuals aspiring to become electrical or electronic engineers.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity, students will be able to create a battery using potatoes, which can light up an LED, understand how a battery functions, and they will be able to understand what is meant by, and the need for, renewable energy.

Download the free activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable so that you can tailor them to your students and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, helpful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation

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