Can you charge a phone with a potato? (1 Scientific Aspect)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you charge a phone with a potato? We will discuss the elaborate experiment needed to use potatoes to charge your phone and the science behind it.

Can you charge a phone with a potato?

You cannot charge a phone with just a potato. To charge a phone, the power needed would be provided by around 200 to 300 potatoes. According to an experiment, you need over 100 pounds of potatoes to power a smartphone. 

The experiment uses nails that act as electrodes, while the vegetable acts as electrolytes. The electron from the acid in potatoes pass through the wires and power up the phone.

How does the potato provide the energy to power a device?

Potatoes can create a small voltage that could power a small electrical component. The potatoes have acids that act as the negative and positive terminals and let the electron flow.

 The flow of electrons generates electricity and potentially powers an electrical device. 

The two terminals that cause the electrochemical reaction to occur are anode and cathode. The salt ions travel through the potato that acts as a bridge to connect the two terminals. 

However, a potato is capable of generating only 0.5 volts or 0.3 milliamperes of energy that can power a low-power bulb. A potato that was boiled would produce a slightly higher voltage as it breaks down the acids and make them available to speed up the flow of electrons in the circuit. 

Why is it practically impossible to use a potato to charge your phone?

A mobile phone requires anywhere between 5 to 12 volts of electricity to charge. Hence, a potato would not provide sufficient voltage to charge even a high-powered bulb, let alone a phone. 

If your phone can use the least amount of voltage; 5 volts to charge then you need at least 100 potatoes to provide you with the kind of voltage. 

How to use potatoes to power an electrical device?

To use potatoes to power an electrical device that runs lower or at 0.5 volts, you need a large potato, 2 pennies, 2 zinc-plated nails, three strands of copper wires, and a low-powered device.

Follow the procedure below to put the circuit together:

  1. Cut the potato into two halves. Make a cut in each of the potato halves, large enough to make a coin fit inside. 
  2. Take a penny and wrap one of the pieces of wire around it. Repeat for the other penny using another piece of wire. 
  3. Lodge the pennies inside the slits in the potato pieces.
  4. Take the remaining piece of wire and wrap it around one of the nails.
  5. Insert the nail into one of the potato pieces.
  6. Use the wire from one of the nails in the potato and wrap them to the other nail.
  7. As the copper wires are connected, they will transmit electricity to the appliance as you connect the loose ends to your electrical appliance.

Be careful while handling the wires to avoid exposure to the current. Also, the setup can be potentially flammable due to the production of hydrogen sulfide, therefore, it is advisable to have the setup away from the flame. 

If the circuit does not work, make sure that there is no disruption in the wire or the connection. Also, make sure to choose zinc-coated nails as steel nails do not work. Secure the wires using alligator clips. 

Has anyone ever used potatoes to power their phone?

An experiment performed by a group known as BatteryBox, claims that you need 110 pounds of potatoes to power a phone. The length of copper wire needed would be 36 feet and a zinc metal tube. 

They boiled their potatoes to optimize the flow of electrons in potatoes. Altogether, the potatoes generated 5 volts and 20 mA of electricity. 

Then the team took the potatoes and aligned the 6 cut-up pieces in a series circuit and the rest 40 as a parallel circuit. They connected the wires to a Samsung Galaxy USB cable and plugged it into their phone. 


The experiment was successful and after 5 hours, the phone was charged to 5 percent. Considering, the effort, and time it took to power the phone, it did not prove to be a productive way of charging the phone.

The method of charging a phone by using over a hundred pounds of potatoes is merely a fun experiment and is not meant as a practical method.

In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you charge a phone with a potato? We discussed the elaborate experiment needed to use potatoes to charge your phone and the science behind it.

Citations

https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/how-to-make-potato-powered-light-bulb.htm

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.