Power 120V AC Wall Outlet with Potato Battery

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by Aris Santas, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. Aris Santas

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 3, 2015
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    Hello everyone!

    First post on this forum: I read that the original 0.85V potato battery created by putting a copper and a zinc electrode in a potato can be made ten times as powerful by boiling the potato first. I would like to create a power source (which need only last a few hours) from a bunch boiled potatoes that can power normal household electronics. Ideally, I would be able to have a standard wall outlet hooked up that I could just plug anything into. However I have a few questions about this:

    (1) To what extent is this project viable?
    (2) How dangerous is this? If I actually manage to create such a power source, will touching the potatoes or other parts of the circuit result in more than a moderate shock?
    (3) Does anyone know of a way to convert DC current into 120V AC current? I am willing to spend money on a part, but not that much.
    (4) How does the size of the potato affect the circuit?
    (5) How does the shape/size of the zinc and copper electrode affect the circuit? I see some people prefer to put a slice of potato between two plates rather than stick two rods in a whole one.

    If anyone can answer any of these questions, that would be very helpful.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
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    o_OUh. No. Try something stronger than that. Copper and zinc with sulfuric acid from car battery would come closer to actually working.
    Getting voltage out is never the problem, it is the infinitesimal amount of current which will limit application. Example. You get enough potatoes together to produce 1,000 volts. Wow you say. Being very generous, I would say you get 1 milli amp of current from the rig. You can now power a device that uses less than 1 watt of power. Nothing of any household use would operate on only 1 watt of power.
     
  3. MikeML

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Your potato "battery" will deliver about 1/1000000 the amount of power normally delivered by a wall outlet. It would take a train load of potatoes...
     
  4. Aris Santas

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 3, 2015
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    Thank you both for replying, I just looked into this a little more and saw that an unboiled potato typically delivers .2 mA. Do you know if this number would also increase when boiled? Upon reading this, it does seem as though I need to scale down this project, but I am willing to use A LOT of potatoes to achieve some kind of interesting effect.
     
  5. paulktreg

    Distinguished Member

    Jun 2, 2008
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    Is it April 1st? :D
     
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  6. AnalogKid

    Distinguished Member

    Aug 1, 2013
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    In round numbers, 150 potatoes will light a normal red or green LED bright enough to see. Not blink or flash, no multi-color, just glow dimly.

    ak
     
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  7. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    Are you serious? :eek:
    Do you live on a potato farm? :rolleyes:
    That old potato clock trick was the pinnacle of efficiency. That's why it was worth presenting in public.

    If you want to see some good energy for a couple of hours, put those potatoes in a couple of 10 year old children. They have much more efficient energy conversion than a couple of strips of metal.;)
     
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  8. Reloadron

    Active Member

    Jan 15, 2015
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    See post #3. Not going to happen with potatoes or even lemons, not what you want anyway. Go to the store and rather than produce buy a
    Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) that meets your needs. Battery powered with rechargeable batteries. You can't recharge a potato or lemon as far as I know.

    Ron
     
  9. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
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    As long as you got the heat to boil the potatoes, use it to generate the electricity. Skip the middlespud!
     
  10. Aris Santas

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 3, 2015
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    This isn't about practicality. It's about doing something interesting specifically with potatoes. I am just trying to figure out what the best I can do is. I have access to bulk potatoes and am willing to go through the trouble of boiling hundreds if necessary. I just want to be aware of everything I have to do to make this work to some extent while being relatively safe.
     
  11. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
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    If at first you don't get the answer you want then keep asking until someone tells you the lie you WANT to hear.
     
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  12. tcmtech

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2013
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    Given the rough estimate of 1 ma at .5 volts per potato as an ideal peak power output to run a 100 watt bulb including conversion losses you would need something like,

    100/.80 = 125 Watt hours of potato power which with each potato producing ~ .0005 watts you will need at least
    125/.0005 = 250,000 potatoes. Now given that and taking an average larger sized potato that weighs ~8 ounces you will need about 125,000 pounds or roughly 3 full semi loads of potatoes to run your battery for an hour.

    Add in the cost and amount of interconnecting wires, about 4 miles of 8 conductor ethernet cable cut and stripped into 6" - 8" long pieces, plus about 750 pounds of zinc plated 4 penny nails ending at a grand total fair market price of about $4 x 750 = $3000 plus 20 1000 foot spools of ethernet cable, $40 a role 40 x 20 = 800, giving you a rough investment without potatoes to be around $3800.

    Now factor in a blistering speed of hooking up one potato every 20 seconds for a total time investment of 250,000/3 = 83,333, ~58 days non stop not including boiling time and there you go.

    But then you also have to figure out how you are going keep boiled potatoes from rotting after setting out for around two months of time while you hook everything up all while working in ideal speeds and conditions with at least 125,000#'s of boiled potatoes which in self is a whole other engineering problem and cost. :rolleyes:

    Realistically I would say that a crew of ~80 - 100 people working in 8 hours shifts for ~5 days non stop with a supply of 4 semi truck loads of potatoes and some huge commercial boilers could light up your 100 watt bulb for an hour or so given a financial outlay of around $100,000 assuming the people worked mostly for free and supplied their own food other than potatoes. :p
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
  13. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    There's your answer in post #12. No more questions, just start cutting wire and boiling spuds.
     
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  14. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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  15. Reloadron

    Active Member

    Jan 15, 2015
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    The point is that this will not happen for all the reasons mentioned. While yes, it would be interesting it isn't possible. You can boil tens of thousands and this won't work. Have you calculated the internal resistance of a potato acting as a battery? Now you can ask over and over again in a dozen forums like this and the answer will always be the same.

    Do this with a single boiled potato, just a single unit or cell if you prefer. Now measure the output voltage under no load. Note the voltage. Now apply several loads to the cell and measure the voltage and current of the cell at several loads. Annotate each reading.

    Now decide what you actually want? You want 120 VAC at 60 Hz? Would you like a TSW (True Sine Wave) or MSW (Modified Sine Wave)? How much power would you like available? Once you have some credible numbers for a single cell you come back and post them.

    Now go read post #12 in detail. This is what you can take as gospel or you go ahead and work it all out for yourself.

    Ron
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
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  16. ebeowulf17

    Active Member

    Aug 12, 2014
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    It seems to me like some of the responses here have been unnecessarily harsh.
    The TS didn't say it HAD to be 120VAC outlets. That was just the original hope. Later the TS asked what WAS realistic.
    And I think AnalogKid provided a great benchmark for comparison. Not much can get done with potato power as a source of electricity, but there's an example of what might be achievable.
     
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  17. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    The potato battery (and nearly every other battery with a solid anode or cathode) depends on chemistry for the voltage (reduction potentials of the two metals in your case). And for current carrying capability it depends on surface area of metal and ion transport rates (mobility) (ion conductivity) of the electrolyte. In your case, there is more mobility in the soft boiled potato.

    Good luck.
     
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  18. tom_s

    Member

    Jun 27, 2014
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    so #12's confirmed the answer in #12

    i'm not a #12, just an innocent bystander :)
     
  19. atferrari

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 6, 2004
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    What special is boiling a potato or two that you waste time asking here instead?

    You are lazy.
     
  20. Alec_t

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 17, 2013
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    Be fair, Agustin. The poor OP first has to dig up 250000 potatoes before he can boil them :).
     
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