When Science Meets Art: Amazing “Electrifying” Projects

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When Science Meets Art - Amazing “Electrifying” Projects

Perhaps you remember those fifth-grade experiments where you’d connect a light bulb to a potato and see it light up. I know I was fascinated with that “miracle”, as I’d call it. Sure, it was a simple chemical reaction, that’s best explained here:

“Raw potatoes tend to be highly acidic. The average potato has a pH (a measure of acidity) of about 5. This is not highly acidic, but it is far from neutral. A potato’s acidity is determined by a combination of the potato’s strain, the pH of the soil in which it was grown, and the method of storage. The acid can be used in a chemical reaction to generate electricity, much in the same way a chemical battery functions.”

It’s all scientifically explained and the problem here is that, once I got the hang of it, I stopped being amazed by this alternate way of producing energy and just put it somewhere in the back of my head, as “one of those experiments we did in school”. Well, thank God others haven’t forgotten all about it the minute they left class and, even as adults, found a way to go back to basics and play around until they created something absolutely spectacular.

One of these artists is Caleb Charland, a renowned photographer who also happens to be a scientist and who’s been producing electricity out of food for years now. And he’s not simply doing it in his own garage, as a hobby. No, he takes outstanding photographs of his work and shares the beauty with the rest of us.

Caleb Charland

Caleb Charland1

Caleb Charland2

Amazing electrifying projects

To get these photos so clear and luminous, it sometimes takes 14 hours of exposure. And the setup process isn’t easy either. Once, he lit up a lamp in the middle of an apple orchard, where he spent 11 long hours as he hammered no less than 300 zinc-coated galvanized nails into apples (because zinc reacts with acid in apples or citrus fruit, creating electricity) and then used copper wiring to transfer the current to a lamp.

But here’s where it gets interesting: the light was too dim to get a bright photo, so he needed a 4-hour exposure to catch the perfect light. In the meanwhile, deers started rambling around the orchard, craving apples, so Charland had to sit behind a tree and make noises to scare the deers away. Now that’s quite an adventure there, all in the name of science and art.

Caleb Charland3

But Caleb isn’t the only one using fruit to create energy for artistic purposes. Cygalle Shapiro of Israel-based d-VISION made a LED lamp that is completely powered by tomatoes. Using the same principles as Charland, she produces electricity from a chemical reaction between tomato acid, zinc and copper and the result is so beautiful that it’s been exposed at the Milan Furniture Fair.

Cygalle Shapiro

Once independent artists started to play around with this type of alternative energy and creating amazing art, brands lined up with the trend and started implementing advertising campaigns using this newly-rediscovered science experiment.

According to Inhabitat, Tropicana and DDB, an advertising agency, harnessed the power of oranges for a very creative campaign. Using the oranges they use to make their juice to run electricity for the billboard that advertises it, the French Tropicana ad reads “Energie Naturelle” (Natural Energy) and is lit in neon lighting. The billboard, which is stacked high with hundreds of oranges, took three months to construct.

Energie Naturelle

Energie Naturelle1

I loved how these artists and advertisers used this amazing power of nature to produce electricity and art at the same time. Now, I really wish this trend doesn’t get old too quickly. I’m hoping some brilliant people will find a way to harness this power for household use and help us get off the grid with a simple fifth-grade experiment. How great would that be?

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