Step 3: Power a Calculator With 3 Pennies!

Here's a fun experiment!

Pick up a calculator from the dollar store and remove the screws on the back so you can get to the battery. Remove it, and save it for another project.

Now pull the negative and positive leads out of the casing and attach wires to the terminals if you can.  I just twisted the wires to the battery leads, and used electrical tape to hold them together.

Now it's time to make the penny battery.

I found the easiest way to make one is to combine the pennies with some zinc washers from the hardware store.  A pack of 30 is about \$1.

Get some cardboard, and cut circular pieces so that the edges are just bigger than the pennies.  Let them soak in white vinegar for about 1 - 2 minutes.

Note: Any kind of vinegar should work, and if you don't have vinegar, try salt water, or lemon juice.  They will all work just fine.

Start your battery cell by placing a piece of aluminum foil on your workspace, and place 1 zinc washer at the end.  Next, take a piece of cardboard, soaked in vinegar, blot dry it on some paper towel, and place it on top of the washer.  Lastly, place the copper penny on top of the cardboard, and the battery is done!

An individual battery cell is a zinc bottom, copper top, and separated by a material like paper or cardboard that's been soaked in an electrolyte.

From my testing, each cell yields just over 0.6 volts, and around 700mA.  The copper top is positive, and the zinc bottom is negative.  This calculator needs around 1.5 volts, so I used 3 pennies, 3 washers, and 3 pieces of cardboard soaked in white vinegar.  (3 cells x 0.6 volts = 1.8 volts approximately)

I added wires to the top and bottom for ease of use, then used some electrical tape to hold it together.  The aluminum foil is no longer needed.

This type of battery cell is pretty much the same as the first one ever invented by Alessandro Volta in the early 1800's, which came to be known as the "voltaic pile".

<p>is it rechargable</p>
<p>I imagine you just add more vinegar to the cardboard. I am going to have to try this. </p>
<p>Are these batteries rechargeable?</p>
<p>Well, here in Canada the Royal Canadian Mint stopped producing pennies a couple of years ago. Now we can't build penny batteries.............</p><p>Nice science demo instructable.</p>
<p>Do you know if Canadian pennies would've worked for this? Cause I've still got a jar of them that I was wondering what to do with...</p>
<p>this is really cool I also really enjoyed your five ways to start a fire</p>
I wonder if I put together 3 parallel stacks of 6 pennies if I could use that as an emergency cell phone power source.
<p>a green LED works at as low as 2.1V, you'd need at least two of these in series, probably more around 3 to get the necessary 5V, also, that LED takes around 20mA, compared to a phone that should take much, much more. With enough batteries, it should be possible tho</p>
Fascinating!
<p>Great Instructable! Love your channel too.</p><p>Had a question on the assembly. You say to start by placing aluminum foil on your worskspace. After you build your cell, do you wrap the foil around it and the nadd the tape? Or do you wrap it without the foil?</p><p>Thanks, and keep up the great work!</p>
<p>i doubt it, that would make a contact in between the top and bottom, which is actually a short, so all the power (as small as it is) will go through that instead of whatever you want to power</p>
<p>nice instructable. I have not seen any where a crediting of this device to it's discoverer. It is a Voltaic pile discovered / invented by Alessandro Volta in the 1880's.</p><p>Faraday did many experiments on it. He used salt water as the electrolyte.</p><p>more info <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaic_pile." rel="nofollow">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaic_pile.</a></p><p>I have been meaning to make one myself and this is great encouragment</p><p>uncle frogy</p>
<p>I'm from the Philippines and I would like to try this out as our Investigatory Project in Science, but so far I haven't made it work yet. Any advice? I use our copper coins, some cardboard and washers.. I'll give you full credit for the idea!</p>
Maybe you should look up basic physics to fully understand what's this is about. But in basic you need copper and zinc, your stack probably don't work because your washers don't have zinc on them.
<p>Either that, or your coins are actually copper. Since the early 80's, American 1&cent; pennies are 95% zinc.</p>
<p>wow,neat. Could you put this in a tube.....maybe a glass cigar tube and make it almost mobile. thanks again</p>
Awesome!!! Well done
<p>This will certainly be helpful :)</p>
I just tried this and does not work, I completed all the steps but nothing has happened...
<p>is there other stuff u can do withthe batteries like charhe a phone</p>
<p>is there other stuff u can do withthe batteries like charhe a phone</p>
<p>Hi King of Random. I loved the tutorial. Just a few questions, plz reply fast, as I need for my Science Fair.</p><p>1 We don't have pure copper coins here in India, so would it work if we keep cupro-nickel coins?</p><p>2 Suggest any alternatives that we can use other than a calc.</p><p>3 If we can't use cupro-nickel coins then can we use, copper wires?</p><p>Please reply fast. Thankyou</p>
I would have loved to do this, its just too bad they have gotten rid of the penny in Canada...
Yeah bummer. do you have anything else that's copper? It will work the same. Maybe some copper wire?
<p>Hello, </p><p>Ive done every step that was asked in the video and it still does not work. Please help. I have a 12VDC red led with 20mA if that is needed to answer my question. Help please!</p>
What kind of led is that? My LEDs won't light up brightly at all. Help.
At 20mA (estimate green LED usage), that means your battery has over 7 Amp-hours! That could charge up a smartphone several times. <br>
Actually I think he said 20 microamps or .02 MA. So more like .07 Amp-hours. So charging a smartphone... Maybe not.
Really? It's hard to believe. I'll have to give it a try sometime. :)
man u r so cool I love your you tube page
Just a thought here, but if you were to drill some small holes in the pennies. Would that possibly increase your voltage or amps given the extra surface area in the zinc to react? Just a thought... Love your projects!
This would be a neat party trick. <br> <br>you should be able to find pennies and cardboard almost anywhere, the LED might be the problem...
amazing
i just made this battery. i used washer (i think they are zinc) used 75% copper 25% zinc coin ( its Serbian 1 rsd coin same as 2 cents in america ) <br>it show from 4 coins,4 washers, 4 cardboard pieces, i got 3,9 V <br>i will make throwie with small red LED and i will follow how long can it last
because coins are copper my improvised battery last only 4-5 hours,.... tommorow i will try with only washers. and one with only coins <br>
great instructable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Is the led still lighted?
Great and educational project - saw the YouTube version. I am always happy to see that kids get involved with learning about science (comment below). <br> <br>Sheet copper is available commercially, so you don't have to use pennies. My friend is a sheet metal worker, he gave me scraps of .025&quot; pure copper sheet.
I did this with my eleven year old daughter last sunday and let her take it into school on Monday, after one freaked out phone call from the principals office and a lot little explanation (we live very close to Newtown CT) it was a smash hit her science class. Thank you. The only Problem is the science teacher wants to know what other tricks I have up my sleeve. P.S. I did give you full credit.
That's an awesome story! I love it, and thanks for the credit :D <br><br>Congratulations on your success with it!!
looks like you know your chemistry
I can do a few things but am always interested in learning more.
how many cells would you need to power a convenrtiona light bulb?
You mean like a 100 watt lightbulb? Way too many to be practical in the least.
anything containing zinc will work which happens to be the main active ingredient in deodorant, So the story goes, <br>One day after updating my battery banks I put some deodorant on &amp; by chance looked at the label seeing it contained zinc so I gave it a shot &amp; it worked since then I've found hundreds of combinations.
Very awesome! Your instructable deserves more views!
https://www.instructables.com/id/Speed-Stick-Power/ <br> <br>I made my first instructable based on the deodorant penny battery I made
You are awesome :) Where did you get the idea for using deodorant? That is such a great idea!
it is rechargeable i tried with a 4.5 solar cell and upgraded the amount of pennies and deodorant to match the 4.5v of the cell to avoid overcharging either a potentiometer or battery charge controller or even a resistor would work. I have been experimenting with different deodorants, zinc based ointments, among other things as well <br>evingoz was