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Can A Lemon Light Up A Light Bulb?

Updated on May 3, 2011

Will A Lemon Light Up A Light Bulb?

I personally love to discover how certain things work. Science has always interested me. So, when I had the opportunity to learn how, or even if a lemon could power a light bulb, I jumped at the chance. Lemons have many uses. They are great additions to cleaning supplies, their scent fills the air leaving a room smelling fresh, and there are many health benefits of lemon water. But is it possible to power a light bulb with a lemon? This would certainly make a great science fair project for a student.

Items Needed To Power A Light Bulb With A Lemon

When trying to conduct this experiment, you're going to need the following items.

  • A lemon that is fresh, fairly large, and juicy
  • A zinc coated galvanized nail, preferably two inches long
  • A copper coin
  • Thin copper wire
  • A light bulb - For this experiment use a small LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulb with two "leads" attached to it.
  • A voltmeter (optional) - This is for testing how much electricity is produced by the lemon.

You are most likely going to need more than one lemon, depending on the size of the light bulb you want to power. There is also a trick you can do, if you are low on lemons. You can slice the lemon into sections. For each additional lemon or lemon slice, you will need another zinc galvanized nail and another copper coin.

The Process Of Lighting A Light Bulb With A Lemon

Now the fun part begins. Insert one zinc coated galvanized nail into one side of the lemon. You will want a little more than half of the length of the nail to be in the lemon. On the other end of the lemon, make a slit and insert one copper coin into it. Make sure the coin and nail are not touching.

Wrap one end of the copper wire around the nail, and wrap the other end of the wire to the negative lead wire of the LED bulb. Do the same with the copper coin. Wrap one end of another piece of copper wire around the copper coin and the other end to the positive lead wire from the LED bulb.

One important point in the connection process is to determine which lead from the bulb is positive and which one is negative. To do this, take a look at the base of the LED bulb. There should be a flat spot on the base. The wire that is located right beside that flat spot is the negative side. The other lead wire is the positive side. The wire that connects the nail to the LED needs to be connected to the negative side of the bulb. The copper coin needs to be connected to the positive side.

Once all of the wires are connected in their proper place, a circuit is formed. At this point, if there is enough power being generated (enough lemons), the LED bulb should glow. If it does not glow, you'll need extra lemons, nails, and copper coins to create more power cells. If you do need the extra items, attach more copper wire from the nail of one lemon to the copper coin of the next, and so forth until you come back to the LED bulb.

How Lighting A Light Bulb With A Lemon Is Possible

The lemon power cell consists of two types of metals. In this case, zinc and copper. The electric current flows into and out of the battery through these two points. A battery has two electrodes, one positive electrode and one negative electrode. With this lemon battery, the zinc coated nail acts as the negative electrode, and the copper coin acts as the positive electrode.

The acid from the lemon acts as an electrolyte which conducts electricity. There is a chemical reaction that takes place between the metals, and the acid causes electrons to bundle up toward the negative side of the electrodes. Electrons on the positive side of the electrodes are lost during this process. The electric current goes from the negative side to the positive side and forces out any excess electrons. The energy from this process is enough to have a small LED bulb glow.

Things To Keep In Mind

One thing to keep in mind, if you use a sliced up lemon rather than a whole fruit, the smaller "cells" won't last as long. Eventually, the electricity is drained out of the cell, and it drains faster from the sliced fruit since they are smaller in size. Smaller cells drain more quickly also because the fruit dries out faster in the air. You might be better off using whole fruit if you're using this experiment as part of a science fair project. You may also want to release the juice by rolling the lemon on the counter under the pressure of your hand.

Experiments such as this have often come to the conclusion that older copper coins work better than newer coins. It seems like coins older than 1960 work well.

Different metals can create different results. Every metal has a certain amount of electrons. The higher the electron count of a metal is, the more power with be generated. If you hook up the lemon battery to a volt meter, you will find that one cell can create about .9 volts. Hook up the lemon to the volt meter the same way you would to an LED bulb, making sure the positive and negative leads are correct.

Interesting Fact

Alessandro Volta (where the term "volt" comes from) first found out how lemons reacted with certain metals. He found the juice was a great conductor with two types of metals. He did not actually "create" the lemon battery itself, but he did discover the concept.

The science of this project can be a bit confusing, but it is definitely worth the experiment. Light bulbs aren't the only thing that can be powered by a lemon. You can also power small calculators and clocks. This is just one of the more ingenious ways of how to use a lemon.


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    • profile image

      nellie chambers 

      4 years ago

      im doing this for science fair project # cool

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      what is you name to author

    • profile image

      turd fergusion 

      5 years ago

      its a funny name

    • profile image

      Nerdy Birdy 

      6 years ago


    • profile image

      patricia situmbeko 

      7 years ago

      i rili love science and ive jx lernt a lot bout lemons so its jx an awsome thing..

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This really helped, and i tried it with my class and it work


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