Potato Lights: the Next Big Thing?

At Lighting Illusions, you’ll find an amazing range of lighting, and we love to bring you the latest in design to suit every interior. But it’s not all about looks; we also care about finding ways to help save energy and the environment. That’s why we give you as much information as we can about the energy use of every product we sell. For example, I blogged a while ago about the best high-efficiency low-energy globes to buy

Potato Battery

Scientists are always looking for more ways to produce the energy needed for modern life, and I like to keep up-to-date with the latest news in this field. But I have to say, I had to look twice when I read reports about one new area of research. Would it surprise you to hear that the next big thing might be potato lights?

The Root Of Success

It’s all down to Haim Rabinowitch. His name might be unfamiliar to you, but he and his colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are behind the idea of the humble spud as a battery, and they’re keen to share it with the world. They’ve shown that by hooking up a potato with some wires, a couple of cheap metal plates and a LED globe, electric lighting can be used in even the most remote parts of the planet, no matter how isolated. 

It seems incredible, but apparently you can make a battery from a potato with just two metals. You’ll need an anode—the negative electrode, e.g. zinc—and a cathode—the positively charged electrode, e.g. copper. Acid from the potato forms a chemical reaction with the metals, and this causes energy to be released. Rabinowitch has found ways to make the cheap and easily available potato work at its very best as a battery, but the original discovery was made by Luigi Galvani in 1780, when he famously got a dead frog’s legs to twitch by connecting them to two metals.

Waste Not Want Not

Rabinowitch’s work has proven that small amounts of electricity—suitable for charging phones and LED globes—can be cheaply and easily provided by potatoes, so why are developing countries not jumping at the opportunity? One of the obvious problems is that potatoes are a very important food source in many countries, so if there are not quite enough to feed people, then they won’t be a popular option as batteries. Of course, the metals degrade over time and have to be replaced, and that adds expense. 

One thing’s for sure; the race to find cheap, sustainable energy for our planet is far from over. In the meantime, we’ll keep bringing you the best new technology to keep your own energy use and running costs as low as possible.