Did you know that some of the fruits and vegetables you eat could also help you make electricity? In
this science experiment we will make a lemon battery. Making a lemon battery is pretty easy if you
have the right stuff and is great for science fair projects.
Tools and Materials
- 3 lemons (limes will do)
- 3 shiny copper coins. We used US pennies
- 3 zinc plated screws
- 4 wires, preferably with alligator clips on the ends.
- a small knife
- small paper sticky labels
- a light emitting diode (LED) with a low voltage rating. We used part 276-330 from Radio Shack.
- a plastic 35mm film canister or similar small container. Use an opaque one, preferable black, not
one made of clear plastic.
- a nail or small awl
- The zinc-plated screws can be found at most hardware stores. They are also called “galvanized”
screws. The zinc plating, which is there to prevent rusting of the steel screw, gives them a shiny look.
The wires with clips can be found at hardware stores or at electronics suppliers.
Process To Make A Lemon Battery
First, roll all of the lemons, one at a time. Press down with your hand and roll until you feel the lemon
become sort of “squishy.” The purpose of this is to release the juice inside the lemon. This step is
very important; it helps you get the maximum response from your lemons.
Push and then twist a zinc-plated screw into one of the lemons about 1/3 of the way from one end.
With the knife, carefully cut a 1 cm (3/4 in) slit into the lemon about 1/3 of the way from the other end.
CAUTION: It might be better for an adult to handle the knife. In all cases, please work with the knife
SLOWLY and CAREFULLY.
Insert a copper coin into the slit so that about half of the coin is inside the lemon.
Note: Make sure you use a shiny new coin for this. If it is old and dull, polish it with steel wool.
Believe it or not, you can now get electricity from the lemon!! It behaves like an electric cell, with the
coin as the positive (+) terminal and the screw as the negative (-) terminal. Unfortunately, it is a very
weak cell. But if you have a couple more, you can join them to make a lemon battery.
Add coins and screws to the other two lemons the same way you did with the first. Then, with the
wires and clips, join the three lemon cells together, so that the screw of the first lemon is connected
to the coin of the second lemon, and so on. Add wires and clips to the first coin and the last screw
Finally, label the clip from the first coin with a “+” and the clip from the last screw with a “- “. Like a real
battery, your lemon battery has a positive (+) terminal and a negative (-) terminal.
When connected like this in what is called a series connection, the lemons work together to create
about the same voltage, or electrical force, as a couple of small flashlight batteries, somewhere
between 2.5 and 3 volts. But this lemon battery does not create enough electrical current to light a
How can we tell if we really have created a battery? One way is to connect it to an electronic device
that needs no more than about 2.5 to 3 volts but that does not require much electrical current. One
such device called a light emitting diode, or LED for short. A low voltage and small current can cause
an LED to light up.
The specifications on our LED package are: 5mm Red LED, 1.8 volt, 20mA. This means the diameter
of the LED is 5 mm, and that it requires 1.8 volts and 20 milliamps of current to light up. Actually, the
LED will light up dimly with less than 20 milliamps. Our lemon battery has enough volts but not nearly
enough milliamps. So we will have to find a way to see its dim light. We tried enclosing it in a film
canister to shield it from outside light.
With the nail, CAREFULLY punch two holes in the sides of the film canister, about halfway down. You
might want to get an adult to do this for you.
Next, mark one hole with a “+” label and the other with a “-“ label.
Bend the wires of the LED into smooth outward curves. Then observe the LED closely. It is mostly
round. However, if you tilt it in a certain way, you will be able to see a flat surface near one of the wires.
The wire nearest this flat surface is the negative terminal. In the photograph, the wire on the left is the
negative terminal of the LED. Can you see the small flat surface by the leftmost wire?
Line up the negative terminal wire of the LED with the “-“ labeled hole in the film canister. Insert the
LED into the canister. Thread the negative terminal wire of the LED through the “-“ labeled hole, and
the other (positive terminal) wire through the “+” labeled hole.
Pull the wires through the holes and secure them in place with the labels. Add labels to the top of the
canister as well. Make sure that the LED is facing up.
Let’s get everything prepared for the big moment. Line up the “+” side of the LED canister with the “+”
clip of your lemon battery. Bring the “-“ clip of your lemon battery close to the “-“ side of the canister.
Now we are ready! Connect the positive terminal of the LED to the positive terminal of your lemon
battery. Connect the negative terminal of the LED to the negative terminal of your battery. The LED
The LED is very dim, due to the small electrical current from your battery. The dark canister helps you
to see this dim light. The end of the LED acts like a magnifying glass. When you look directly into the
end of the LED, you can see the light easily.
This proves that you really have made a lemon battery that works!! Congratulations!!
Troubleshooting Making A Lemon Battery
If you can’t see the LED light up try these fixes:
You may have the polarity of the LED reversed, that is, the + and - switched. Reverse the LED and see
if it lights up.
The LED may be very dim. Dry it in a darker room and let you eyes adjust to the dimmer light before
Make sure all of the connections are secure: wires clipped to the coins and screws and coins and
screws firmly in the lemons.
More Things To Try While Making The Lemon Battery
Over time, the voltage in your lemon battery will go down. See how long your lemon battery will last.
After a while, you might notice a darkening of a lemon near the screw. If you remove the screw and
insert it (or a new zinc-plated screw) at another place in the lemon, you can partially restore the
strength of your battery. You can also “juice up” your battery a little bit by moving the pennies in and
out of their slots from time to time.
Try more than three lemons connected together. Is the LED light brighter? Does the lemon battery
Try larger pieces of copper and zinc.
Try using an incandescent bulb - the kind used in a flashlight. Can you make a fruit battery strong
enough to light it?
Try other fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes and tomatoes. What about grapefruit and oranges?
Can you think of a way to try bottled lemon juice?
Obtain an electronic instrument called a multimeter. This device allows you to measure voltage
directly. What is the voltage of your lemon battery? What is the voltage from a single lemon cell? Now
go and make a lemon battery with some friends.
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