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From Science Fair to Real World: Potatoes for Power

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Dec 19, 2013 12:04:00 PM

POTATOES CAN HELP LIGHT ROOMS and power devices according to The Smithsonian magazine blog. “What the potato does is simply help conduct electricity by acting as what’s called a salt-bridge between two metals, allowing the electron current to move freely across the wire to create electricity.”

Boiling the potatoes and cutting them aids their power production ability. The potato kit includes some wires and alligator clips.

Sci Dev Net calls the finding by a research team from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, “The holy grail of renewable energy research.” Perfect for remote, off-grid communities, one slice of potato can generate 20 hours of light. Several slices of potato could provide enough energy to power simple medical equipment and even a low-power computer. For even more details, check out the BBC spud story, “Potato Power to Light the World.”

The down side? In low-income countries how does power compete with food (we ask the same questions about ethanol production from corn in the United States)? And the unanswered question in the reports is: Are the potatoes used up after power generation, or are they still edible, maybe as a version of potato chip?

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