How to be awesome at powering a light bulb with a potato

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If there's one thing the Irish know, it's the potato. But these sausage sidekicks can provide much more than sustenance. They also make pretty handy household appliances. When the electricity hits the fritz and nary a candle is around, grab the closest spud, find a spare light bulb and bask in a glow that would bring Mr. Wizard to tears of joy.

1. Zinc about it

Find a galvanized screw or nail and insert it into the potato. It must be galvanized (coated in zinc), or all you've got is some starch-covered metal and a wasted tuber.

2. Copper? I hardly know her!

On the opposite end of the potato, insert a pure copper strip - they can be found at any hardware store - measuring about three centimeters by a half-centimeter. It's important that the galvanized metal object doesn't touch the copper strip.

3. Wire to wire

Tie a long piece of copper wire to the metal protruding from each end of the potato.

4. Let there be light!

Connect the copper wire to a small light bulb (about the size of a small Christmas light). The current from the zinc and copper will pass through the wire and into the bulb, lighting it up through the magic of electricity.

5. Potato famine

After the excitement subsides and you come to the realization that flipping the light switch is a bit more practical, discard the spud. Bits of zinc and copper could be lodged inside, so it shouldn't be consumed. It doesn't take a scientist to figure that one out.