Introduction: The Penny Battery

Picture of The Penny Battery

This is a derivation of brenn10's battery based on a comment by westfw, mainly because I wanted to see if it would work.

Either watch a lame video, of continue reading.

Step 1: Wacha Wacha Gonna Need?

post 1982 pennies
wire & solder
soldering iron
lemon juice

Step 2: Prep the Pennies

Picture of Prep the Pennies

Sand one face off each penny to expose the zinc core. Using 220 grit and holding in my fingers, it took about 45 secs of sanding to do each penny.

Alternately I tried both belt sander and disk sander, excellent ways to burn your fingers, but not appreciably faster.

Step 3: The Electrolyte

Picture of The Electrolyte

Cut up some cardboard from the back of a notebook and soak it in lemon juice, then blot dry.

Step 4: Assemble

Picture of Assemble

pick out two pennies and solder leads to one face on each of them, one with the lead on the copper face, the other with it on the zinc face.

Now start stacking coins and cardboard, with all the coins copper side up, stack them with a peice of soaked cardboard between, secure with a rubber band and attach the leads to a low current electrical device, the copper side is the positive. And Tool said "Let there be light".


georgia_herman (author)2016-02-26

Hi, I'm wondering if anyone knows, if we can make batteries out of coins, why dont we do we even have normal batteries?

could one make a battery that would power a lamp, lets say, out of pennies? How long would it last?

These type of batteries are interesting, but incredibly inefficient.

turbofiat124 (author)2014-10-25

Man, you guys are blowing this whole defacing money thing way out of proportion! Just because something is illegal doesn't mean you are going to go to jail for it. It's still illegal in some states to marry your 1st cousin but I have never heard of anyone being thrown in jail for it.

The only way the government would spend the effort of throwing someone in jail for defacing currency is if they bleached a $5.00 bill and reprinted a $20 or $100 on the paper. That's how professional counterfitters do it. Because the $5s have a metal strip inside it and those pens that detect fake currency only work if the paper is fake, not the ink which is made of cloth instead of wood pulp.

arpruss (author)2011-09-02

I am not a lawyer, but here's what I've found. First, there is a federal law banning modifications to currency for fraudulent purposes. Making batteries isn't fraud. Second, the US Mint in 2007 (after an earlier interim rule) has put in place a specific rule against exporting, melting or otherwise "treating" pennies and nickels, as a response to the rising price of metals. This rule, however, contains an explicit exception: "The prohibition contained in § 82.1 against the treatment of 5-cent coins and one-cent coins shall not apply to the treatment of these coins for educational, amusement, novelty, jewelry, and similar purposes as long as the volumes treated and the nature of the treatment makes 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." The full text of the rule is here.

turbofiat124 (author)arpruss2014-10-25

I suppose explains how amusement parks get away with those machines that flaten pennies and stamp the name of their park on them for souvenirs.

I have heard that it is illegal to sell pre 1982 pennies for scrap metal since they are pure copper (or close to it) which is worth more than their face value. I'm sure metal recyclers won't accept them anyway. You would have to build a machine to grind them up into shavings in order to get away with it.

Great instructable none the less!

shadow4742 (author)2010-10-03

so in terms of power, is it a AA, AAA, D, or what?

Electrically, the only difference between those 3 is how long they last.

twighahn (author)2011-04-21

how many pennies?

As many as you like, the more, the higher the voltage

does that mean more power?

qz9090 (author)2008-04-06

For those of you who do not know, defacing US currency is against the law.

duckythescientist (author)qz90902008-12-19

I believe it is only illegal if the defacement increases the value of the currency.

You're forgetting, the modern penny with the cost of copper and nickle as it is, is more than the face value of a penny itself. 1 penny= 1.4 cents in material and .02 cents in labor.

So by sanding it down, and then using them as a battery, he's already increased their value seven fold :) Federal Reserve is gonna hunt him down and murder him in his bed for this one...

twighahn (author)MillenniumMan2011-04-21


or decreases it

Tool Using Animal (author)qz90902008-04-06

Everything is illegal, if the gov't has nothing better than prosecute me over 11 cents, well, I'll pay the hundred dollar fine, after they spend thousands convicting me. Also, since I only removed one face of the coin you could argue that is is still identifiable and there for does not fall under the defacement statute.

Sure but the thousands they spend convicting you is your tax money. Your 11 cent battery just cost... lets see 11 cents+$100 fine+thousands of your tax money= a whole lot of $$$$$ I guess by now your trying to figure out the point behind it and here it is. Give it to me!!

Your cunning plan overlooks one small detail, I'm an unemployed student, therefore, I pay no taxes and have no money. ;-)

Indeed, I smash pennyswhenever need to, I don't care if the govermentdosen't like it, IF they don't like it they can gulp it down!! I have powered models of citys in the future with JUST pennys And also as a child you can clam that you don't know law(and it will not be a lie) Or els theyed let children run rules over america.

Of course you don't, because you would have just sanded down the last eleven cents you had ;p


And further looking shows that "fraud" must be involved, since I'm not passing off this currency as any other currency the bar is not met.

qz9090 (author)Tool Using Animal2008-05-25

Any US currency, regardless of its composition (paper or metal), is the property of the US Government i.e. you DO NOT OWN IT. Just because you are not spending it does not mean you own it. Defacing that currency is against the law. Sanding down a coin is considered "defacing", therefore it is illegal. This law is the same in many countries, i.e. not just in the US.

make things (author)qz90902010-04-10

Wait I thought that the U.S. people were the ones who run the gov. so basically it is our money. So they wouldn't exist without the people. It's in the Constitution that the gov. is ran by the people. Still people don't really care.

Tool Using Animal (author)qz90902008-05-25

You are still wrong. Defacing money with the INTENT to render it unsuitable for circulation is illegal, however, my intent was to make a battery.

JohnJY (author)Tool Using Animal2009-11-15

"however, my intent was to make a battery."
Fifteen miles from an army base, sleeping on top of a strangers roof, my friend wearing a hat with a Communist star and all I could say was: "Honest officer, we just picked a random place to go!"
I love a good excuse!

MillenniumMan (author)qz90902009-05-22

It's actualy the property of the federal reserve, and not the federal government. The F.R. is an independent corporation that has been given legal lease to print and stamp bills and coins. They are allowd to do so as a contractural arrangement with the United States government. As long as they have some asset to back up what they print (which they no longer do) then by law, they are allowed to print up all the bils they want. Coupons are also considered money. Put out by the company that makes a product. The customer exchanges this coupon for a certain amounts of face value off the purchased product, then the company reimburses the store that accepted the coupon with promisary notes printed by the federal reserve (greenbacks), who in turn are supposed to reimburse said notes for gold or silver (no longer done since we've been off the gold standard for several decades and have been trapped by the notion that dollar bills are worth something) Sooooo.... lemon juice, huh?

KIMBONGCHILL (author)qz90902010-08-08

oh no, let all run for the hills. NOBODY CARES!

JamesRPatrick (author)qz90902008-05-26

Please don't start...

awkrin (author)qz90902008-05-25

it's true.. sorta. don't u have money IN your house that u never spent on anything? it the same thing. so every person in usa should pay each thousand of dollars, which would bring all the money to the government. yeah that would probably save usa from it's huge financial problems.. as for the battery itself, cool! oh and using a powerful cleaner(grease remover) cleans most of the dirt, so u only have to polish then to remove a little tiny bit that's left...

qz9090 (author)2008-05-25

This reference from the Cornell Law School states very clearly that mutilation of coins is punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Tool Using Animal (author)qz90902008-05-25

Yes, but the key word is "fraudulently", there must be an intent to commit fraud for it to be a crime.

Haha, intent! And they says I was crazy wearing this foil on my head to repel them gov'ment telepathy rays.

quantumkittty (author)2010-09-02

TO ALL THOSE COMPLAINING ABOUT DEFACING THE MONEY: the law on this is that money that has been defaced in a way where it is no longer recognizable may not be put through circulation. HERE IS THE LAW ITSELF: Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened and places such back through circulation— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

martzsam (author)quantumkittty2010-10-15

Ok, nobody, not even the government can prosecute you or sue or whatever, unless it comes to a value over $20.00. Period. It's in the Bill of rights.

so could ya please stop D:

pmartinez (author)2010-09-13

Dude awesome job. Thank you, sorry to see your instructable became an opinion blog for something else.

Thanks man, I appreciate it. I seem to collect them, for a laugh go check out the "Obama is gunna take all yer guns" comments in my Pellet gun instructable.

churchman (author)2010-09-03

See, sometimes you just look for obvious laws and you'll find a way to remark some thing that shouldn't be done!

churchman (author)2010-09-03

Well also something that you didn't know is that A child under a sertan age can only use A 1.05 volts! so it is outlawing!

knoxarama (author)2008-10-16

how long do you get out of these?

samnew (author)knoxarama2010-02-04

yeah i am wondering that as well, how long do you think it might run a LED?

mjcole82 (author)2009-05-22

I was wondering if it is possible to recharge one of these batteries?

Arbitror (author)mjcole822009-10-01

Simply drop the whole thing in a tub of lemon juice.

knoxarama (author)2009-07-22

what's the amperage on this?

somewhere between greater than zero and not very much.

viper121 (author)2009-07-06

Mine works great I added 2 pennies since pic and i am up to 4.5v open, 1.8v under load Oh and I don't have a lemon so I used salt water

1oooop (author)2008-07-09

Isn't 6 volts enough to fry an LED? especially white ones(rated 3~3.2 volts[3.3 is okay])

Tool Using Animal (author)1oooop2008-07-10

Yes, but that was "open circuit" voltage, under load it drops.

1oooop (author)Tool Using Animal2009-06-14

ahh,yes.. forgot about that :P

About This Instructable




Bio: Working my dream job in the Telecom industry, so chances are, i'll never have time to respond to comments or messages, nothing personal.
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