Forget Lithium Battery Technology, Just Boil A Potato

These researchers are taking this development so seriously we can’t help but be suspicious that, perhaps, they are all deeply embroiled in a bet to see who could get funding for and complete research in the most absurd technological advancement.

Most of us have had a science teacher desperately try to alleviate the drudgery of standardized test centric science education by dramatically putting a copper nail and a zinc nail into a potato or lemon. “Behold, we can measure a voltage with this voltmeter. If you get asked what a voltmeter is on a test, here is a definition none of you have enough experimental basis to understand,” the teacher would say as their dreams of being a true educator were crushed a little more.

Anyway, using their beer grant money, these researchers found that the efficiency of a potato based battery can be increased by boiling it for eight minutes which drops the internal resistance of the potato. We’re not sure if dramatically staring at a boiling potato while wearing a lab coat is necessary, but it appears to help.

Of course, this is no different from Volta’s original cell, except for the researchers going on about how they hope this “potato-based energy technology” will help the Third World light their homes. Volta just wanted to impress his cool science friends. Aside from the fact that people who are impoverished are likely to eat the potato and sell the pure copper and zinc plates for more potato, it will at least provide an interesting classroom demonstration of what exactly a battery’s internal resistance is —  if we can somehow translate the resulting understanding into a multiple choice scantron sheet. Video after the break.





36 thoughts on “Forget Lithium Battery Technology, Just Boil A Potato

  1. Who knows? Maybe there is a tuber out there in the wild that would make a useful electrolyte for a Third-World battery. Given some of the battery technology we have seen being explored over the last decade or so, it may not be that crazy.

    1. IMO research dollars are better spent on cellulose ethanol orother renewables. Turning food into fuel only makes sense if you got arable land to spare, which most people lacking electricity don’t. Even if you do, better to grow transport stable crops to share with those who can’t.

    2. Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb..

      No, seriously, you may need to do a bit of organic chemistry to get the final product but from Wikipedia:

      Anthraquinones (also known as anthraquinonoids) are a class of naturally occurring phenolic compounds based on the 9,10-anthraquinone skeleton. Many quinones are stable in multiple redox states; as such they can absorb electrons when appropriate counterions are available to maintain the bulk neutrality of the material. As such, 2,6-dihydroanthraquinone can be used as a negative electrolyte reservoir in an alkaline flow battery (opposite ferrocyanide) to store electrons when a current is applied at an ion-selective membrane.

      Aloe emodin is an anthraquinone present in aloe latex, an exudate from the aloe plant. It has a strong stimulant-laxative action.[1] Aloe emodin is not carcinogenic when applied to the skin, although it may increase the carcinogenicity of some kind of radiation.[2][3] Aloe emodin is found in the gel, sap or leaves of Aloe vera ,the bark of Frangula (Rhamnus frangula) and Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana), the leaves of Senna (Cassia angustifolia), and the rhizome of Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum).

    1. I call fake because it takes many times the energy to boil the water and potato than you would ever get from the potato otherwise you would expect that a potato could power a stove like heating element which is absurd!

      1. I buy it.
        It doesn’t have to be economic to be real. Though i do wonder if it was DI water, or how much salting the water might help.
        Boiling certainly would break down cell walls, and briefly activate enzymes that break down starch.

    1. Unrelated, guy is a hack, charlatan at best. Nothing he has done is original can all be found in academia and none of it is fully explained. He simply passes off things already done as his own and has an army of mouth breathers like you to praise him for it.

        1. Are you so daft you can’t see that which is so clearly presented to your eyes? I see 100’s of sources to academia where everything has been done first and credit given even if its not all properly cited.

        2. Many of the readers here have projects on and perhaps some would take your comments personally.

          Some of my projects are repeats of other peoples work because learning is much more than reading and imitating.

          But if you would like to enlighten us with what you consider a worthy project then I personally invite you (respectfully) to create an account and start some projects – it’s free.

      1. >Unrelated, guy is a hack, charlatan at best.

        How it that relevant? I agree that it isn’t directly related however squinting a bit they are both derived from crops.

        >Nothing he has done is original can all be found in academia and none of it is fully explained.

        Still not relevant.

        >He simply passes off things already done as his own and has an army of mouth breathers like you to praise him for it.

        Insulting the OP without any reason why (at least as posted here) and continuing spouting irrelevant shit doesn’t make you look good nor backing up the assertion of this being unrelated with the article.

        1. Its entirely relevant, when he has explained none of his recent “discoveries.” Everything he has done up to this point can be easily cross referenced with prior discoveries. When academia freely gives out materials and methods… well lets see that is relevant too. The methods and materials in this potato battery are freely available and were NOVEL when released.

          Saying I am spouting “irrelevant shit” that is clearly relevant makes you look really not all there. Maybe try putting the internet down for a minute and picking up a book, the Curious George series should be about your speed.

    1. I think it was, if it had been mentioned internal resistance is probably lessened by breaking open the cell walls of the potato and also hydrolyzing the starches. It could give some people ideas when working with similar devices or completely unrelated ones.

      It also helps foster one of the rewards for open source technological development, that is recognition.

      It also shows that sometimes the simplest refinements can greatly increase performance in a device.

  2. For a quick home-experiment, the potato forms an easy electrolyte that can also mechanically keep the zinc and copper plates in place. But its the zinc and copper that hold the energy. So “storing” the potatoes being an advantage is weird. A non-fresh potato, you can no longer eat, but it works just fine as an electrolyte. Probably just as good as a boiled one.

  3. When I imagine the lab used to “discover” the properties of the potato-battery, my mind’s eye pans left to the watermelon sitting between the plates of a hydraulic press for some strange, unknown reason that will come to me eventually if I just wait long enough…

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