Energy from Food
Apr 20 2011
MDominguez2's picture
Source: MDominguez2
Summary Information


energy, digestion, battery, fruit, vegetable, transfer, producers, electrochemical, electron, electrode, zinc, redox reaction, anode


Physical Science

Workplace Skills: 

Raising Questions
Problem Solving
Planning investigation

Estimated Time Required:

less than 1 hour

Target Grade (Ages):

Grade 5 (Ages 10-11)

Diversity Indicators:

Differentiation occurs and is articulated when measuring student responses and questions.

Watch this Lesson in Practice

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Your Rating: 

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)


Not yet Nicole, I cant find

MDominguez2's picture
Not yet Nicole, I cant find large enough potatoes, maybe we can use a whole bag at once. :)

Diid this lesson with high school biology students

mcgaffin's picture

I did this lesson with my high school biology students. It was very easy to set up once I knew what I needed. I connected the copper wire and the nail with alligator clips to a multimeter and students experimented with different substances (raw and cooked potatoes, lemons and soda) to see what combination would give them the highest voltage. They were very engaged and enjoyed the opportunity to engineer something in class. I discussed how the potatoes caused a chemical reaction with the zinc which caused the electrons to flow...and how the flow of electrons transfers energy. I tied this in to the flow of electrons in the mitochondria and chloroplast. This lesson would also be great for kids in chemistry, physics or just a basic lab science class.

Much misinformation and

Alan Feingold's picture

Much misinformation and inaccurate statements in this lesson plan.
1. The electrical energy that this apparatus produces does NOT come from the potato! The energy comes from electron transfer between the copper and zinc. Prove this by using salt water or vinegar instead of the potato. The voltage produced will be the same.
2. More proof - a zero calorie carbonated drink will work as well a one with sugar.
3. Energy is NOT absorbed from food. Energy is obtained from food through metabolic processes which oxidize fats, protein and carbohydrates. A much better analogy to demonstrate this is to set on fire a dry cracker, a dry piece of spaghetti or a nut. The food burns producing light and heat energy through oxidation.
4. "The electromotive force within each potato is the ability it carries to move electric current." This sentence is nonsense and completely wrong.
5. The potato is not an electrolyte. An electrolyte is a solution of ions. The fluid in the potato is an electrolyte.
6. This lesson should be part of a unit on electricity. Teaching it in conjunction with food makes no sense and will greatly use the children. Obviously the teacher is completely confused.
I have a degree in Biology with a minor in chemistry.