Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Joys of Science: Battery-less Digital Clock

I am facinated by anything electric powered. I remember my high school days when my favorite science teacher discusses about electricity, how you can generate it by mechanical or chemical means. I would read books on how to conduct experiments on how a battery works and how can you generate it just by taking two dissimilar metals and immerse them in acid to generate electricity (a discussion on how this works can be found in this link). I remember salvaging copper wires, pieces of Galvanized Iron (yero) and vinegar or muriatic acid to make my makeshift battery to light up a small flashlight bulb.
I am glad a company called 4M Industrial Development released a line-up of science experiment activity kits that demonstrates and teaches scientific principles to young kids. Of particular note is their POTATO CLOCK. Their kit is easy to assemble (be careful when handling chemicals kids). I bought one just to get a feel of being a kid again.
The kit comes in a box that contains:
  1. Digital clock Module
  2. Two pieces plastic container
  3. Two 5 inch copper strips (reddish brown metal strip)
  4. Two 5 inch zinc strips (shiny metal strip)
  5. Connecting wire
  6. Transparent Tapes
Assembly of the digital clock is straight forward.
Kit comes with all materials used to assemble this clock
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First: Assemble the SERIES WIRE by attaching one piece of copper strip to the connecting wire and attaching a piece of zinc strip to the other end. Secure the ends by wrapping it with the enclosed transparent tape.

Zinc strip (left), Connecting Wire (top), Copper strip (right)
Tie the wires and fasten the ends securely with transparent tape
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Second: Take out the DIGITAL CLOCK MODULE
Attach the Copper Strip to the RED WIRE of the Module
Attach the Zinc Strip to the BLACK WIRE of the Module.
It is very important to attach the correct wire to the correct strip, otherwise, no electricity will be generated.
Clock Module
Red Copper Strip to RED WIRE. White Zinc Strip to BLACK WIRE
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Third: Get some vinegar, or lemon juice. Since I don't have those two at hand, I just prepared half a glass of ICED LEMON TEA (Now we are oblivious to this, but the commercial Iced Tea contains lots of acids and additives that when taken in large quantities can be bad for your kidneys)
Good ole ICED LEMON TEA contains many artificial substances that are good for GENERATING ELECTRICITY

Divide the ICED TEA into the two plastic cylinders
No, this is not URINE, this is ICED TEA

Place the copper electrode to one cup, an the zinc electrode into the other.
Place copper electrode on one cup, and the zinc to the other
Take the SERIES WIRE we made during the first step and immerse the ZINC end to the cup with the Copper Electrode. Place the other end (Copper) of the SERIES wire to the Zinc Electode as shown in the photo below:
Power Up!
You should observe that the Clock now has a time display, indicating that your battery works.
Science made simple and explained.

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