For the month of March, StemBox partnered with Clorox’s green clean brand, Green Works Natural Cleaners, and girl was it a blast.
This partnership first started back in August of 2015. Some folks at Green Works had heard about StemBox’s Kickstarter and it was a total no brainer. Green Works supports girls in STEM and is even founded by a female chemist baddy, Maria Ochomogo! So of course, we were bound to become besties. And it was like a lemon match made in science heaven (I’m definitely the best at metaphors and humility). Over the course of a few months, StemBox and Green Works worked together to come up with an experiment that represented the power of Green Works’ products while teaching girls about an interesting hands-on STEM concept. Thus the Lemon Battery Box was born!
The scientific principle at work in this box is based on the acid base chemistry of most common chemical batteries. By harnessing the #naturalpotential in lemons, we can generate an electric current. This electric current is created by the flow of electrons (which, hello! electrons sounds just like the word electric!) in a continuous circle, from anode to cathode. We were able to power a small LED using just this technology, which is basically almost magic, because this was just using lemons, I swear!
The reason for this sorcery goes back to the acid base chemistry I mentioned earlier. Lemons are full of acid, specifically citric acid, which makes it a great oxidizer. Acids are good oxidizers in that they are capable of stripping electrons away from particular atoms. On one side of our lemon we have a zinc nail, our anode. Zinc has an abundance of electrons so it’s happy to give some away, which is what our citric acid lemon juice will do. But the electrons need somewhere to go! That’s where the cathode comes in, copper. The copper is less endowed in the electron game than zinc, so copper is kind of like your younger sibling claiming they didn’t get enough ice cream and so does whatever it can to get as much ice cream as you even if that means physically reaching over and sucking it down through a ridiculously long straw (unless you are an only child or the youngest child, in which case I repeat, I am the best at metaphors).
The straw in this metaphor is our wire. The electrons (ice cream) needs something to travel through. Matter doesn’t just morph across space to mesh with other molecules (don’t quote me on this, science is weird, who knows, they’ll prove this soon I’m sure). So while copper sucks away at the electrons from zinc using our wire straw, the movement of electrons is creating a current that can be manipulated to move through something like our LED bulb to create light. Eventually eating all that ice cream/electrons is going to make you need to go to the bathroom. Copper does the same thing, it needs to release these electrons back into the lemon solution, so the citric acid lemon juice is happy to take these used electrons from copper and move them into the lemon juice solution. And there you have it!
TLDR watch this YouTube video:
I could go on all day about how cool I think this project is, but I think it’s probably best left to our steminists to show just how enlightening (bad puns for everyone!) this experiment really was.
StemBox goes to Oakland and San Francisco!
If you want to see some girls performing this experiment live, check out my interview with ABC7 Bay Area Life here!
It was a ton of fun getting to head out to the Clorox labs in Oakland and taking a few hours after the interview to explore the waterfront of San Francisco, so a special thank-you to Clorox and ABC7 for setting that trip and interview up. Check out the photos of our Oakland/San Francisco adventure!
And some photos of behind the scenes at Clorox labs…
Now some tourist photos exploring the San Francisco Waterfront!
Phew, that was a doozy of a box, but definitely worth seeing how many girls enjoyed learning about batteries. Stay tuned for a blog about our April box, Aviation and Aerodynamics…hopefully it won’t take another 2 months to blog about it ;)