Introduction: Penny and Nickel Battery

Picture of Penny and Nickel Battery

This instructable is a battery made of pennies, salt water, and nickels. It produces voltage much like a battery, but you use pennies and nickels instead. It is a fun project for those pennies and nickels you don't wish to use anymore. Most of us don't usually go to the coinstars, and our change just piles up, so make a battery out of them!

Go to the next step for Items you need.

Step 1: What Do I Need?

Picture of What Do I Need?

Here are the items you will need:

For about 1 volt, you will need:

(6)Pieces of paper towel cut to a size smaller than the nickel
(1)Glass of water with 2 Tablespoons of salt dissolved in it

Optional: Multimeter to measure the amount of voltage you have prodced.

Step 2: Mix Solution/Add Paper

Picture of Mix Solution/Add Paper

Step 1Pour two tablespoons of salt into a glass of water and try to keep it mixed with the water.

Step 2Put in the pieces of paper towel that were cut to the size of the nickel. A little bit smaller will do the trick

We do not want the pieces of salt paper touching eachother

Moisten the pieces of paper with the salt, and put them onto each nickel.

Go to next step for more details

Step 3: Time to Stack!

Picture of Time to Stack!

Step 3Once you have each piece of salt moistened paper placed on the nickel, place a penny on top of each nickel.

Step 4Now stack all of the coins. The sequence should be:

(The Nickel, is the bottom)

Step 4: Test With a Multimeter

Picture of Test With a Multimeter

Step 5Now it is time to test your battery with a Multimeter. The multimeter measures how much voltage is coming from the coin battery.

Please note, you can continue to add more coin sequences to the top of the other coins to get more voltage. I just happened to run out, so I could not get enough to light an LED.

For the Multimeter: Turn it to the number "20" for voltage, to get an accurate reading.

Step 5: Troubleshooting

If your battery does not make any voltage, check the following:

1)Make sure the coins are stacked in an orderly fashion. Make it as upright as possible.
2)If your multimeter does not show any number, do #1, and also try switching the multimeter leads around.
3)Taste the paper to make sure it is quite salty.
4)Make sure the pieces of paper are not touching eachother.
5)Add more coins! If you don't see much voltage, just add ore and more coins to get it to a good amount of voltage.

Step 6: How Does This Work?!?!?!

Well, its quite simple you see this is a single cell of a battery, so the zinc nickel and copper penny are called electrodes. The salt is called the electrolyte. As we know, all batteries have a "+" and a "-" terminal. Electric current is a part of current using electrons. Certain materials called conductors allow the electrons to flow through them. The two metals are good conductors, and so the current will flow from the "-" terminal through a conductor(salt mixture) to the "+" positive terminal.

If you don't get it, ask.


calvin.656336 (author)2017-03-20


chuckr44 (author)2017-01-15

Hello, I'm writing a blog entry to post to your Instructable. Can I use one of your pictures in my post? Thank you.

Brennn10 (author)chuckr442017-01-15

Yes, of course!

chuckr44 (author)Brennn102017-01-16

Thank you. The post is scheduled to post on Feb 15 at 4am. Check back for it then. :)

Dog12345 (author)2016-12-05

I made this thing for science and got an A-plus!

JeffR8 (author)2015-04-29

Used the experiment to teach electrolysis to my son. It produced a charge of 3.6v. We substituted the paper porous separator with a cotton cloth scavenged from an old tee shirt. 30 minutes later and it still has a 1.9v charge.

Compressing the pile causes problems. Although placed in a specially designed Lego rig (lol), the compression causes contact between the Penny/Nickel pairs resulting in loss of charge. Next steps to improve the setup:

1- I believe larger than recommended porous separator dimension would minimize that problem.

2- 100% synthetic fabric instead of cotton might help.

georgia_herman (author)JeffR82016-02-26

Hello! does anyone know if there is a way to make them last for longer? if i am correct the only reason they stop working is because the electrolyte evaporates? so is there such thing as an electrolyte that is solid/longer lasting?

georgia_herman (author)2016-02-26

Hello! does anyone know if there is a way to make them last for longer? if i am correct the only reason they stop working is because the electrolyte evaporates? so is there such thing as an electrolyte that is solid/longer lasting?

ocnhochimto (author)2015-09-15

it's so amazing. follow it and i did make my own battery. Thanks,

DJ Thunder (author)2015-03-30


westfw (author)2007-03-18

Ever since pennies became zinc with a thin outer layer of copper, I've been intrigued by the idea of building a battery from ONLY pennies. But I can't think of an easy way to get rid of the copper on one side (and part of the edge? Of the penny. Any ideas out there?

ironsmiter (author)westfw2007-03-19

Coat one side with a chemical resist(Asphaltum, tar, hotglue, etc). Place in a warm citric acid bath Check every hour or so. The stronger the solution, and the warmer the bath, the faster it'll strip the copper. Citric acid is usually available in grocery stores. Make sure to use the correct year pennies... Some will be all copper, some steel, some copperplated zinc.

westfw (author)ironsmiter2007-03-20

Does citric acid really etch copper? I guess the big problem is that it'll eat the zinc away too. I don't think I know of anything that will dissolve the copper and stop when it gets to the zinc.

lasermaster3531 (author)westfw2009-07-13

I think cyanide will but ii is hard to get and toxic.

Ya and how can coins have electricity

ironsmiter (author)westfw2007-04-17

sorry for the long delays in responding.... Yes, citric acid works well. Not so much etching, as disolving into solution. In my college "small metals" classes, we used a stainless steel tub with a low LP flame burner under it, as a "pickle tank". Mainly to remove the scale from a piece, after soldering. It's effectiveness is llustrated by the nice blue color the liquid developes after a few days use (copper oxide is blue-to-green in color) it takes a while, but I've had students leave their 20-22 gague wire projects in the bath over the weekend, and come back on monday to fid only the heavier gague plate remaining.

lbrewer42 (author)ironsmiter2008-10-18

anything after 1982 is copper-plated zinc. Some 82's are this style - some are the older (mostly) copper style

cj8tacos123 (author)westfw2014-10-12

l33tn00b's method uses sand paper or a dremel to sand of one side of the penny. I tried it and It works well and is actually better than this method

DrHoule86 (author)westfw2014-04-19

belt sander with a jig the size of the penny do it sticks out just a little you you can sand off some of the surface.

ferric chloride solution or sodium metabisulfate in peroxide. same stuff used to etch a PCB should take the copper off.

triggernum5 (author)westfw2008-04-01

They have these nifty tools now called files..:) Or you could try contact electrolyzing it..

We messed around with pennies in metalworks, and figured out that sanding them or filing them will get them nice and silvery shiney pretty quickly. (If you use a dremel with sandpaper it'll take under a minute.)

WesDoesStuff (author)westfw2007-03-18

it's simple i just filed off the copper from half of the penny and stuck it into a lemon ... ishould really make an instructible on that. I GOT DIBBS ON IT!

westfw (author)WesDoesStuff2007-03-20

Go for it! Attaching wires to both sides of the coin might be a challenge...

ironsmiter (author)westfw2007-04-17

nice :-) To avoid soldering, try artic silver epoxy? and stick the other wire directly into the fruit :-) Classic potatoe clock, except with a higher amperage?

lemonie (author)westfw2007-03-18

UK pennies are copper plated steel these days. Concentrated nitric acid will remove copper quite effectively (I've done it, and this is how I know they're steel inside). However, the cell is only going to last as long as the copper-plating

westfw (author)lemonie2007-03-20

It's the steel/zinc side that gets eaten away. The copper stays relatively unaffected. (at the Zn electrode, the reaction is Zn -> Zn++(aq) + 2e- (and the electronic travel off down the connected wire.) At the Copper electrode, you just have 2e- + 2H+ -> H2 (gas) (electrons from the wire, H+ from the acid electrolyte.) (huh. I spent a bit of time searching, but I didn't find a web page that I thought explained this very well.) The fact that you don't need "substantial" copper is one of the things that makes the copper-plated pennies so interesting...

lemonie (author)westfw2007-03-21

Iron and Zinc have different redox potentials, I've not found coins made of zinc. However, I may see what can be done...

DJ Thunder (author)2015-03-16

I'm doing this for my project and did you copy this or did you made it up?


marco4 (author)2014-08-13

what if the pennies and the nickels touches each other??? because the paper is smaller....☺☻♥♦♣♠•◘

BrunoG (author)2012-08-22

Can I use pure copper instead of pennies?

DrHoule86 (author)BrunoG2014-04-19

Yes you can.

knoxarama (author)2009-03-17

if your doing this in america, this is illegal. while it is legal for the distruction of pennies, you cannot legaly destroy nickles or any other form of currency.

Brennn10 (author)knoxarama2009-03-17

Where am I destroying or defacing any piece of coinage? This experiment is far from illegal.

knoxarama (author)Brennn102009-03-18

zinc deteriorates as it is used with acids and copper. This means your are literaly destroying the money. give it time and you will see the damage. I backed this up when i made a lemon juice battery, and the zince rod flaked apart in the juice and disinagrated. and that would be defacing or destroying government property, which with the exception of pennies, is illegal.

DrHoule86 (author)knoxarama2014-04-19

Get A Life. How about if you don't like the experiment move along. We all like it, we think it is interesting. Besides show me one official who would take the time to come after someone using 15 cents of nickels and 3 cents of pennies. Do you have any idea what it would cost the FBI to even listen to your stupid compliant. I wish you would call someone so they can laugh in your face as hard as we did.

jtobako (author)knoxarama2009-04-03

Look up your facts-PENNIES and NICKLES are (were) illegal to melt for metal content because the metal content value exceeded the face value FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. Copper prices are down, so it's no longer illegal because the mint would make money now where they would have lost money when metal values were higher.

Ginchi1730 (author)knoxarama2009-03-22

Negative. Otherwise those penny presses at Disneyland (the ones that press pennies flat and then engrave a copy of Sleeping Beauty's Castle in to it) would be illegal. Who wants to raid Disneyland?

knoxarama (author)Ginchi17302009-03-23

no, i said it is legal to destroy pennies. i said it was illegal to destroy the nickles.

jtobako (author)knoxarama2009-04-03

No, it's illegal to MELT DOWN COINS (specifically pennies and nickles) FOR THEIR METAL CONTENT in batches of more than $5. Art projects involving coils are ok. Look it up on the US Mint website.

knoxarama (author)jtobako2009-04-05

no, a law passed states that specifically pennies can be melted ONLY for their metal content. And i've been to that website. It isn't completely accurate. Also, this isn't an art project, it's a science project. Nickles can't be melted at all.

DrHoule86 (author)knoxarama2014-04-19

Just shut up and admit you where wrong. Besides no-one cats what you think is illegal or legal. Move along little little girl.

georion (author)knoxarama2012-09-03

Wow ,,the US MINT dont know SQUAT aboutits JOB ??????

Tomahawk92 (author)knoxarama2012-05-03

btw there are nickle presses at Disneyland too... and at sea world...... and the San Diego zoo. plus its the US MINT website...... if anyone knows whats illegal to do with US currency. its them. maybe your other source is false.

jtobako (author)knoxarama2009-04-06

As opposed to melting them for???? If you can show me the federal code, I'll believe that the US Mint's guidelines are wrong. Until then, I'll believe that the US Mint knows about US coins : ) And nickles melt at about 2700F : )

rhegler (author)knoxarama2014-02-25

The exportation, melting, and treatment of 5-cent and one-cent coins are prohibited, except for educational,amusement, novelty, jewelry, and similar purposes as long as the volumes treated and the nature of the treatment make it clear that such treatment is not intended as a means by which to profit solely from the value of the metal content of the coins. See for details.

kate60525 (author)2014-02-10

I made this! But no pics

kate60525 (author)2014-02-10

Hi, Im making a penny battery for the science fair! Im in 5th grade I was held back once supposed to be in sixth. way behind on this project

CBEkid (author)2013-01-06

I like you project-I'm in the 5th grade and I wish it was in a smaller photos -and wording so I could print it. I cannot download it. Thanks-

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