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Make Electricity Science Project (Part Two of Two)
Make Electricity from Copper Sulfate Electrolyte

from Part 1 of the article is available here

Make Electricity from Copper Sulfate Electrolyte

For this experiment we decided to use copper sulfate as electrolyte because copper sulfate is widely available at hardware stores and pull suppliers. You can also get small sheets of copper and zinc from hardware stores. If you could not find zinc, just get a galvanized iron. It does the same thing in a few seconds until the layer of zinc is destroyed. You will need to add a few drops of sulfuric acid for the process to speed up and turn on the light. Sulfuric acid also is known as battery acid and can be purchased from auto parts store. You need diluted sulfuric acid (about 5 to 10%). Acid sulfuric is very corrosive and you must have gloves, goggles and protecting clothing while handling it.
electricity pic 1

Material needed are:

• 2 plastic or ceramic cup
• 2 sheets of copper (2” x 4”)
• 2 sheets of zinc (2” x 4”)
• 50 grams copper sulfate
• 10 cc Sulfuric Acid 10%
• One 1.2 Volts bulb with socket
• Three wires (with alligator clips if possible)
• One Multi-meter (Set to Voltage)

Henry Purcell
In the first experiment, secure a copper plate and a zinc plate on the sides of the cup as your electrodes. As the picture shows you can bend the sheet toward outside. Use two wires to connect the electrodes to the light bulb holder and screw the bulb. Temporarily remove the zinc plate and then fill up the cup with copper sulfate solution. Now insert the zinc electrode.
Although the process starts and electricity is being produced, the light bulb may still be off. Add a few drops of sulfuric acid to expedite the process and get some light. To stop the process, remove the zinc plate. If you want to test the voltage, make sure you unscrew the bulb first. This process will release hydrogen that is hazardous and breathing that will cause choking. So do the experiment in a well ventilated place and avoid keeping your head right above the cup.
electricity pic 1
electricity pic 1

This chemical reaction creates about 0.7 volts that is barely light up a 1.2 Volts bulb. But is not able to light up a 2.5 volts bulb that is shown in this picture.

In the next experiment we connected two cups together as shown in the picture. That created about 1.2 volts and produced a small light on our 2.5 volts bulb.

Now you know why I insist on low voltage bulb for this test.

This picture shows the bulb in the last experiment.

Testing other electrolytes such as salt water and lemon juice produced much less electricity and no lights at all.

We decided to repeat the first experiment with 5 small cups and smaller pieces of copper and zinc plated screw instead of zinc.
Multi-meter showed that each cup is producing 0.7 volts and 5 cups together produced 2.3 volts.

Even though we had 2.3 volts of electricity, it could not turn on the light. The reason is that small electrodes can not create enough electric current.

Latest Update: (Make a Sandwich)
electricity pic 1
electricity pic 1
electricity pic 1
This new experiment using copper sulfate produced a long lasting bright light.
Procedure: Make about 30 mL saturated solution of Copper Sulfate.
Cut 2 pieces of felt about 1/2” smaller than your copper and zinc plates both in length and width.
Place one copper electrode on the table and connect it to one side of the light bulb.

Insert one piece of felt in saturated copper sulfate and place it on the center of the copper plate.
Place a zinc plate over the felt.
Place another copper plate over the zinc plate.

Insert another felt in copper sulfate and then place it on the center of the top copper plate.

Finally place another zinc on the top and connect that to the other side of the light bulb. You should get the light.

• Notes: Felt should get wet, but it should not have any excess liquid running off the felt.
You may substitute the felt with any thick, absorbent cotton fabric. Copper Sulfate is not included in your kit, but it may be purchased from hardware stores and pool chemical suppliers. As a result of this experiment, a layer of black copper oxide will be formed on the zinc as shown on the above picture.

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