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What Can you Make with Copper Wire, Nails, and Vinegar?


Every kitchen was that drawer. You know the one—filled with odds and ends that have no home, so they just sort of end up in that drawer. Suppose one day, you go to that drawer, looking for a battery. You can’t find one, but you do find an ice cube tray, some copper wire, a handful of galvanized nails, and a small bottle of vinegar. Well, now your battery needs are solved because you can build your own battery!

Wrap a small piece of copper wire around a galvanized nail, leaving enough extra wire to create a “tail.” Place the nail in one compartment of an ice cube tray, hanging the wire over the side into another compartment. You’ve just created the beginnings of an electrochemical cell. Repeat as many times as you would like to create a battery (several electrochemical cells in a sequence) but be sure the copper wire is only touching one nail at a time. Then fill the tray with vinegar.

Now this battery isn’t very powerful, but it will turn on a small LED light if you dip the ends of the light in the vinegar solution (one end in a compartment containing just a nail and one containing just wire).

How does this work? The zinc in the galvanized nail and the copper in the wire act as electrodes, and the vinegar, which is acidic, acts as an electrolyte. When the circuit is completed, electrons begin moving in a circuit, creating an electric current, which turns on a small LED light.

This fun experiment is a great way to introduce your children to the concept of batteries and circuits. You can see a hands-on visual, with much more instruction and an engaging explanation of what’s happening in the ice cube tray, in Season 3 of Unlocking Science, featuring Mr. P, now streaming on Answers TV.


A former high school science teacher, Mr. P uses hands-on experiments in Unlocking Science to teach families observational science and how science confirms God’s Word. This show is both entertaining and educational for the whole family to sit down and enjoy together and is a great supplement to your fourth- through eight-grade students’ science education.

Watch Unlocking Science, and many other programs, today with a free seven-day trial at Answers.tv.