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July 25, 2014

The Electric Potato Acid Test: Art and Lumia 930

We all know that fruit and veggies help power us to get through the day – but did you know they can also charge your Lumia phone?


In the past, we’ve attempted to charge a Lumia 1020 with the power of lightning as well as sound.

Yesterday, multimedia artist Caleb Charland displayed a large art installation that organically charged a Lumia 930 via copper wire, galvanized nail… and 800 potatoes and apples. Yes, you read that right!




If you were at the Westfield shopping center in London’s Shepherd’s Bush yesterday, you may have seen the 8ft-high, 20ft-wide art project. Luckily, for those of us who weren’t there to marvel at the imaginative project, we have video as proof:



Caleb’s hand-built circuit of metal, apples and potatoes triggered an electrical current equating to an average of 20mA and 6 volts to power the smartphone.


“By creating this large organic charger to power a Lumia 930 device,” he said, “this work speaks to a common curiosity we all have for how the world works, as well as a global concern for the future of Earth’s energy sources.”


The Shepherd’s Bush installation was one of the largest art projects Caleb has yet produced. It was the next logical step after another recent installation of his, called “Back to Light,” which operated on the same electrical principle.


Pomme Power!

So how did the chemical energy in apples and potatoes electrically charge the Lumia 930? You may well have learned this in your primary-school science class, but allow me to refresh your memory.


Voltaic batteries are composed of two metals that are connected and suspended in an acidic solution. In Caleb’s installation, the metals were copper and zinc (from the galvanized nails).


They comprised the positive and negative electrodes – the parts of a battery where electrical current enters and leaves. Meanwhile, the acid from the fruit and vegetables (phosphoric from the potatoes and ascorbic from the apples) provided an electrically conductive solution.


“Following the success of our lightning experiment in 2013, we were keen to explore another way that could harness natural energy,” said Thomas Messett, head of digital marketing and advocacy for Europe Microsoft Devices.


“We have an obligation to ensure we are always looking for new energy-efficient ways to improve the performance of our products, and we’re proud to have done that with wireless charging on the Lumia 930 and some of our other Lumia products.”


Who knows what Caleb will work on next? In a statement on his website, Caleb said, “The utter simplicity of this electrical phenomenon is endlessly fascinating for me.” So you may see more of such inventive art projects in the future.

Ready to build your own organic charger?


You can re-create the fruit-and-vegetable power experiment and perhaps even put together your own art installation: Here’s a sample guide on how to make a potato battery, although you can use whatever fruits and vegetables you have on hand.


If you do, let us know how it works out. And tell us what you think of Caleb’s art piece!