Potato Clock or Potato Battery

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Making a potato clock is an entertaining science experiment or family project. Some also call this a potato battery. Have fun with it.

Potato Clock

A clock made of vegetables certainly qualifies as "green energy."

While you won't change the world with one potato clock, it is a great introduction to thinking differently about energy sources.

What You Need to Make Your Potato Clock

  • 2 large, unpeeled, raw potatoes
  • Small amount of heavy copper wire
  • 2 Galvanized nails
  • 3 Alligator clip leads 
  • Small LED clock

With just these few simple items, you can begin to learn that there are indeed ways to leave a smaller "carbon footprint" in your world.

Assemble your own potato clock building materials, or get all of them (except the potatoes) in a kit.

4M Green Energy Science Kit

Potato Clock Directions

Begin by removing the battery from the small digital clock. *(make a note of which way the plus (+) and minus (-) sides of the battery face.)

  • Using a dark-colored marker, number your potatoes "1" (one) and "2" (two).
  • Insert one of the galvanized nails into each potato. 
  • Insert a copper wire into each potato as far away from the nails as you can. 
  • Connect an alligator clip lead between the copper wire in potato 1 and the plus (+) terminal of the clock's battery compartment. Avoid allowing the alligator clip to come in contact with other metal parts in the compartment.
  • Connect another alligator clip lead between the copper wire in potato 2 and the minus (-) terminal of the clock's battery compartment. Again, not allowing the clip to touch other metal parts.
  • Finally, connect the last alligator clip lead between the nail in potato 1 and the copper wire in potato 2.

If the clock begins to work, you will know you have followed all of the steps correctly and have created your own potato clock!

Make A Potato Clock

If your clock does not work, here are some things to try:

Check that all wires are securely connected.

Try reversing the two clip leads on the clock's battery terminals.

Make sure that you are using galvanized nails; "regular" nails will not work.

All of your wires, clip leads and battery terminals need to be clean. It's best to start with new components however if you want to use what you have you can clean them with sandpaper.

Soak the potatoes overnight in Gatorade. This can increase their conductivity because Gatorade contains electrolytes that can help conduct the electrical current through each potato.

If all of these fail to make the clock tick, you may have to try another LED clock or start over using different potatoes.

Make A Potato Clock

You can make a similar "clock" using other fruits and vegetable. The Lemon Clock is one of the most popular alternatives. Again, you can gather your own "ingredients" or purchase a ready made kit. These kits make great gifts and are a wonderful way for a family to do a fun, and educational, project.

Make A Lemon Clock
4M Lemon Powered Clock

How Does a Lemon Clock Work?

The lemon clock or lemon battery, as well as a potato battery, work on the science of conversion - converting chemical energy into electrical energy.

Lemons and oranges are both fruits that can easily be substituted for a potato in this experiment. If you roll or gently squeeze the lemon or orange before doing the other steps, you will find that the fluid, and thus the conductivity, will flow more easily.

Whether you use potatoes or other fruits and vegetable to make your clock, remember that these fruits and veggies are perishable. That's not good if you leave your project in a closet or on a shelf where it will spoil. 

The good news is that, when one of your potato or lemon clocks is no longer usable, you can remove the other components and make it again with a fresh fruit or vegetable!

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