Chemical to electrical energy transfer to power a calculator with Solanum tuberosum (Potatoes)
There are several interesting things happening with potatoes during this potato harvest time in the DFW area. One standout is the “Smart Potatoes” campaign initiated by REAL School Gardens in concert with BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas) whereby 30 elementary schools in 5 school districts are growing, tending and harvesting potatoes to donate to their local food pantries.
Another potato happening was that on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 -- United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Texas Instruments in conjunction with REAL School Gardens and the Museum of Nature and Science joined fifth-graders at Gabe P. Allen for a morning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the Schoolyard. The goal of the event at Gabe P. Allen was to encourage volunteerism from the top level of companies down and draw attention to United Way’s focus on education.
Feeding young minds with science
Of the three demonstrations with hands on learning at the STEM day at Gabe P. Allen that were facilitated (building solar ovens using pizza boxes, a game to match garden tools with the simple machines they correspond to and powering a calculator using potatoes) it is powering the calculator with potatoes that offered a particular “wow” factor. Simply put, potatoes contain phosphoric acid which acts as an electrolyte to facilitate an electro-chemical reaction when two metals such as zinc and copper are inserted into a potato. In the case of the school STEM day, copper pennies and zinc nails were used to activate the acid in the potatoes to electrically power the calculators that each student had. There were no batteries in the calculators and the solar eye was covered with black tape.
So we see that potatoes can feed the body when schools grow for the community and feed the mind when used for scientific inquiry. Take a look at how fruits (or potatoes) can power an Apple I-Pad click here or how potatoes may be the storage batteries of the future powering technology in homes click here.