Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 3 – Chemical Energy

By Brooke Drake, October 20, 2015, Events & Fun

Welcome to our new series – Fun with Less Kilowatts. Each week, we’ll provide a different fun and educational activity for kids to teach them about energy. Each exercise is easy, entertaining, fun, and educational. We hope this series helps gets kids interested in energy so they can learn the importance of energy and how to become energy efficient.

Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 3 - Chemical Energy

Science SHOULD be fun!

 

Hello, dear reader! In weeks past, we’ve talked about wind energy and static electricity. This week, we’re focusing on chemical energy through the use of lemons using the Fruit-Power Battery experiment. We want to show how lemons actually have chemical energy stored within them – enough to power a small LED light.

Materials

Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 3 - Chemical Energy

Using lemons can be electric!

  • 4 Lemons
  • 4 Pennies
  • 5 Zinc-galvanized nails
  • 5 Sets of alligator clips
  • 1 Small LED light

Setting

Since there is cutting involved, we did this experiment over a table to provide stability while using a knife. Also, we recommend that parents ONLY do the cutting. No matter how responsible your child might be, using a sharp knife can be dangerous.

Directions

Fun with Less Kilowatts: Part 3 - Chemical Energy

Don’t let your experiment turn sour!

  1. Cut one slit in each of the lemons big enough to fit a penny. I used a sharp paring knife from my kitchen, so make sure a parent (or responsible adult) does this step. Then place a penny about halfway into each of the lemon slits.
  2. Next, poke a nail into the lemon opposite of where the penny is placed. Note: Be sure that the nail and penny are on opposite sides of each other and don’t touch each other or the experiment won’t work.
  3. After, connect the alligator clips from one penny to the next nail and then do the same with the rest of them. Note: I was unable to find alligator clips pre-connected to wires so I purchased wires and alligator clips separately, and connected them with pliers. It was a little more difficult so I recommend finding pre-connected ones.
  4. Finally, there should be two alligator clips remaining, one attached to a penny and the other attached to a nail. Attach them to each side of the LED light.

The Science Behind How This Works

This experiment teaches kids about two things: closed circuits and chemical energy. In this scenario, the lemons are all connected by the wires and alligator clips allowing the energy to flow continuously through a loop. It flows through the lemons to the light bulb, lights it, and then flows back around again continuously. This is an example of a closed circuit.

In regards to chemical energy, this experiment also acts as a battery. A battery consists of two metals inside an acidic solution. So, in terms of this activity, the penny is copper-coated, and the nail is made of zinc – i.e., two metals – and the citric acid within the lemon acts as the acidic solution. The energy current flows between the pennies and nails, and with the help of the citric acid inside the lemon, this allows this process to act as a battery, which lights the LED bulb.

Share your successes with this experiment in the comments, and if you have any other experiments teaching kids about chemical energy, please share those also!

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