5E40.03 - Batteries - Wet and Dry/Voltaic Pile

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Batteries - Wet and Dry/Voltaic Pile
Chemical Storage of E.M.F.
Area of Study:
Electrically & Magnetism
Cutaway 1.5 Volt Dry Cells, Glass Lead Acid Batteries for Demonstration (2), Car Battery, 1.5 Volt Dry Cells, 'AAA' Battery, 'AA' Battery, Cutaway 'D' Cell, 'D' Cell, 'C' Cell, 9 Volt Battery, 6 Volt Dry Cell, 49 Volt Battery, 67.5 Volt Battery, Alkaline Battery Mounted in Plastic, Large Metal (Brass and Magnesium) Battery Cell, and Electrolyte.

The batteries are displayed to show what they consist of and the different types that are available.  No advanced preparation necessary other than routine cleaning.

A voltaic pile may be made using the copper and magnesium squares.  Place a copper square on the bottom, then a layer of filter paper, then an magnesium square, and then a layer of filter paper, and then another copper square, etc.  Continue this sequence until you have the desired number of layers in your pile.  Wet the filter paper with lemon juice or saturated salt water that has a small amount of vinegar added to it and the pile should start to produce electricity.  Connect a Piezo buzzer or a voltmeter to the top and bottom plates of the pile for a measurement or audible indicator.

Take 5 of the pennies that have one face sanded off and place them all zinc side up.  Soak 5 of the 1/2 inch square mat board pieces in saturated salt water that has a small amount of vinegar added to it.  Place a soaked piece of mat board onto each of the zinc faces.  Stack these penny-mat board pieces on top of each other, all with zinc sides facing up.  Place an intact penny on top of the stack.  Connect the red LED with the longer lead touching the intact penny and the other lead touching the bottom of the stack.  Make sure the pennies don't touch each other or that the mat board doesn't drip as both of these events will short out the battery.

The large metal battery cell is made from an outer electrode of brass and an inner electrode of magnesium.  You may use this as a show and tell demo or you can make this cell by putting 150 ml of any type of electrolyte in the cell and observe the voltage with a multimeter.  Types of electrolytes that can be used include dilute acetic acid, any regular soda such as Coke or Mountain Dew, salt water, etc.

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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.