5D30.30 - Pickle Light - Electrocute a Pickle

Insert the two elevated copper wires into the ends of a pickle. THEN PLUG IN THE UNIT !!! Turn the On/Off switch to the On position. The 40 or 50 watt bulb will come on. This light acts not only as the indicator that the circuit is armed, but also as a current shunt and current spike protector. When ready HOLD DOWN the button on the hand switch. Depending on the size of the pickle, after about 10 seconds the pickle will start to emit steam and then will start to glow quite spectacularly.
This is a good approximation of what happens to an electrocution victim as the electric current follows the electrolyte streams (Arteries and Veins) of the body. NOTE: ALWAYS UNPLUG THE UNIT BEFORE INSERTING OR REMOVING THE PICKLE.  Consult the information in the file as to the proper safety measures and some other variations of this demonstration.
Code Number:
5D30.30
Demo Title:
Pickle Light - Electrocute a Pickle
Condition:
Excellent
Principle:
Ionization of Electrolyte
Area of Study:
Chemistry, Electricity
Equipment:
Pickle electrocution apparatus, Spare 20 or 30 amp fuses, Pickles (Dills are Preferable).
Procedure:

See also 5D30.30 in Chemistry and Physics of Everyday Experience.

Insert the two elevated copper wires into the ends of a pickle. THEN PLUG IN THE UNIT!!! Turn the On/Off switch to the On position. The 40 or 50 watt bulb will come on. This light acts not only as the indicator that the circuit is armed, but also as a current shunt and current spike protector. When ready HOLD DOWN the button on the hand switch. Depending on the size of the pickle, after about 10 seconds the pickle will start to emit steam and then will start to glow quite spectacularly. This is a good approximation of what happens to an electrocution victim as the electric current follows the electrolyte streams (Arteries and Veins) of the body.

NOTE: ALWAYS UNPLUG THE UNIT BEFORE INSERTING OR REMOVING THE PICKLE.  

Consult the information in the file as to the proper safety measures and some other variations of this demonstration.

References:
  • Paul Hewitt, "Figuring Physics", TPT, Vol. 59, #3, March 2021, p. 216.
  • Peter M. Weimer, Rubin Battino, Arnold George, "The Incredible "Glowing" Pickle and Onion and Potato and...", Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 73, # 5, May 1996, p.456.
  • Pirketta Scharlin et al, "Glowing Veggies", Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 73, # 5, May 1996, p. 457.
  • Martin Gardner, "The Electric Pickle", Science Tricks, p. 56
  • Jearl Walker, "5.23, Current, Voltage, and People", The Flying Circus of Physics Ed. 2, p. 229.
  • Mark F. Trax, "Pickles in the Lab: A Learning Cycle Approach to Solution Chemistry", Grudy Center High School.
  • "Light Elements", Discover Magazine, May 1994.
  • "Characterization of Organic Illumination Systems", Digital Equipment Corporation, April 1, 1989.
  • Brian Carusella, "The Wondrous Glowing Pickle", Bizarre Stuff, 1997-2002. 
  • Julius Sumner Miller, Q170 & A170, Millergrams II – Some More Enchanting Questions for Enquiring Minds, p. 41 & 97.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.