Month: February 2021

Can You REALLY Charge A Phone With A Potato?

You may have heard about it already. Potato batteries are well-known and often made in science classes. But did you know you could charge a smartphone with one? 

First, let's talk about how this works.

Potatoes can conduct electricity by acting as a salt bridge between the two metals. Many fruits rich in electrolytes can also form this chemical reaction with the phosphoric acid they contain. Essentially, it's nature's version of battery acid. Bananas and strawberries are good examples. 

The reaction between the phosphoric acid and the zinc and copper generates power. The more slices used, the stronger the administration - as well as if you boil the potatoes.

Potatoes are a perfect choice because of their solid starch tissue. It can be stored for months and won't attract insects. Boiling the potato breaks down the resistance in the potato's substantial parts, allowing electrons to flow more freely. 


To assemble your potato battery kit for a light bulb, you need two metal electrodes and alligator clips. You can make a surprisingly strong battery by using a quarter of your sliced potato, sandwich it between a copper cathode and a zinc anode, and connect with a wire. This design allows you to easily replace the potato with a new slice when it no longer powers the battery.

Alligator clips transport the current-carrying wires and are attached to the light bulb's electrodes and negative and positive inputs. This combination can provide lighting at a much cheaper cost. 

For a visual of what this looks like, check out the video below.

Charging a Smartphone

Now that we can power a lightbulb, what would it take to build a potato battery strong enough to charge a smartphone?

It takes about 110 pounds of potatoes to charge a smartphone. It is a lot more complicated than lighting a lightbulb. You also need 36 feet of copper and zinc metal tubing. 

In the experiment performed by BatteryBox, the battery needed to give out 5V and 20mA. With these supplies, they also boiled the potatoes to increase power. Once they combined the potatoes with the zinc and copper, each potato had an open circuit voltage of 0.9V and gave out a current of 0.3-0.6mA. 

Next, they positioned the potato cells into a battery-packed configuration of 6 in series and 40 in parallel to achieve the needed power requirements. 

After this, they stripped a USB cable and plugged it into a Samsung Galaxy S3. The battery began charging. 

The result isn't as exciting as one would hope. It only charged 5 percent of the battery after five hours. But the experiment is still considered a success. After all, it could probably charge a phone in its entirety. The cost and the work put into it depends on how much fun you have in making batteries. 

To see how BatteryBox did it, check out the video below.

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Top 10 Gift Ideas For Curious Engineers

Hunting down the perfect Christmas gifts for your friends and family becomes more difficult each year. Avoiding the possibility of giving the dull gift, the repeat gift, or the gift they’ll never use is a challenge. 

Finding the perfect gift for your favorite logical, curious, and tech-minded engineer can get really tricky. From a job tool to the latest gadgets that they’ve had their eye on for months, we’ve made your shopping a little easier and rounded up ten of the top gifts to give your favorite engineer this year.



If you have an engineer in your life that loves challenging puzzles and building things, this clock is the perfect gift. Based on a sketch by Da Vinci, this clock was designed with space and motion in mind and can get assembled as a wall mount or free-standing clock.


Galileo Thermometer and Glass Globe Fluid Barometer

The Galileo thermometer consists of a sealed glass tube filled with water and several floating bubbles — containing a colored liquid — with weight tags attached. This system involves pressure, and the weather is the basis for a weather prediction device called a storm glass or liquid barometer — making it the perfect gift for engineers young and old. It even works as a nice decorative piece!


Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Top Spiral Notebook

You can never go wrong with a weather-proof notebook. Engineers work inside and outside, traveling in between their work locations on various trips. Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Top Spiral Notebook repels water/mud, has a tough outer shell to maintain shape, and is entirely recyclable. Who doesn’t love an environment and engineer-friendly gift?!


Tactical Messenger Bag

If your favorite engineer works in the field, they’ll typically carry around a lot of gear. Lightweight, durable, waterproof, and scratch/fade-resistant, the ArcEnCiel Tactical Messenger Bag contains multiple dividers and compartments for organization.


MoMA Large Perpetual Calendar

It’s the calendar you never have to throw away! The MoMA large perpetual calendar uses magnetic balls to mark the date and month, and you can use it as a wall-mounted or free-standing calendar.


Tesla Patent Prints

Decorative wall art can come in many forms, and these 8x10 patent prints make the perfect gift. Nikola Tesla was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist known for his electricity supply system work. This set of six comes ready for the perfect frames you select for your space!


Engineer Girl Power Coffee Mug

Coffee mugs may seem like a cliche Christmas gift, but this one is perfect for the female engineer in your life. With more and more women getting into STEM roles, this is the perfect gift for her to keep in the kitchen, take into the office, or work from home with. After all, coffee is what gets us through the day!


Mind Teaser Puzzles

Engineers need to have the skill and patience to solve even the most complicated build, tech, and logic problems. These puzzles will test their patience and focus for even the most seasoned engineers, and they can use it daily to test their skills!


Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

For the entrepreneur, Elon Musk has made quite the impact on a global scale. From PayPal to Tesla, Musk has left a footprint on engineering, industrial systems, and innovation that will impress engineers old and new. This book dives into Musk’s businesses as well as the drive to the strong vision for the future that he has who-heartedly invested in.


3D Printing Pen

Engineers looking to the future will love this 3D Printing Pen. With customizable drawing speed and temperature, the pen is safe even for the youngest of designers. Watch as your creativity comes to life with various effects created by the filaments in the pen!

You can find inspiration for engineers just about anywhere. Their curious minds work in a way that some of us can only dream of. If you’re looking for more ways to get the creative bug going or helpful tips as your venture into engineering, subscribe to our newsletter, and you’ll receive updates every time we publish something new on our page and in our blog.

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Deepwater Sponges Inspire the Next Generation of Bridges and Skyscrapers

Have you ever walked through a covered bridge or built a metal storage shelf? If so, you've seen diagonal lattice architectures. 

This type of design uses several small, closely spaced diagonal beams to distribute applied loads evenly. This geometrical design was patented in the 1800s by civil engineer and architect Ithiel Town. His goal was to establish a method to create sturdy bridges of lighter and more cost-effective materials. 

With this design, some researchers are taking it to a whole new level with sponges.

A Whole New Use for Sponges

We all know sponges as generally soft and squishy. We think of sponges we use to wash dishes, and then we think of underwater sponges that look similar. However, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) found a use for glassy skeletons of marine sponges to inspire future buildings, bridges, and spacecraft to be bigger and longer than before. 

These researchers recently published an article in Nature Materials about the diagonally-reinforced square lattice-like skeletal structure of Euplectella aspergillum (also known as Venus Flower Basket). This deepwater marine sponge has a more excellent strength-to-weight ratio than the lattice designs used for centuries to create buildings and bridges.

"We found that the sponge's diagonal reinforcement strategy achieves the highest buckling resistance for a given amount of material, which means that we can build stronger and more resilient structures by intelligently rearranging existing material within the structure," said Matheus Fernandes, a graduate student at SEAS and first author of the paper. 

James Weaver, a Senior Scientist at SEAS and one of the paper's corresponding authors, said the strength-to-weight structure of a structure is fundamental in many fields. The inspiration from biology could pave the way for designing lighter, more vital structures for many different uses. 

Euplectella aspergillum employs two sets of parallel diagonal skeletal struts that intersect and are fused to an underlying square grid to create a robust checkerboard-like pattern.

Sturdier Than Other Materials

Researchers replicated the lattice design of the 1800s, comparing the sponges' skeletal structure to that of existing lattice geometries. The result? The sponge design excelled, holding heavier loads without buckling. 

Researchers showed that the paired parallel crossed-diagonal structure increased overall structural strength by more than 20 percent, without requiring the additional material to achieve this effect.

Researchers continue to be surprised by sponge skeletons. Who knows what the future will bring with further studies? Only time will tell. 

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