Rather than fill your belly (or your bin) with arguably the world’s most hated vegetable during the festive season, why not use them to provide power to your Christmas tree instead?
As part of the UK’s Big Bang Fair, a team of engineers and scientists has created a Brussels sprout battery that is capable of harnessing the power of the vegetable and using it to generate a surprising amount of electricity.
DesignWorks, assisted by Year 7 pupils from a local school, demonstrated the remarkable power of the humble greens by connecting the battery to an eight-foot (2.44-metre) Christmas tree on London’s Southbank, where it provided enough power for 100 high-efficiency LED tree lights.
The battery system is comprised of five power cells, each of which contains 200 of the oft-maligned vegetables. The Brussels sprouts are covered in copper and zinc electrodes that create a chemical reaction using their natural electrolytes.
The team came up with the idea after a recent survey of 1,000 children by OnePoll found that 68 per cent “hated” Brussels sprouts and 67 per cent wished the tradition of eating them at Christmas could be brought to en end.
“We want young people to think about STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) in an interesting way and are always looking for different ways to do that,” said Paul Jackson, the CEO of Engineering UK, the organisation which runs The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair. “It being the festive time of year – and kids’ dislike of sprouts being well documented – using them to create a battery seemed like a unique way to achieve that aim.”
Brussels sprouts are not the only vegetable, or indeed fruit, that can generate electricity. All living beings including plants are made up of fluids which may be typically considered as an electrolyte, with potatoes and lemons being the two of the most effective materials to use for organic batteries.
In the early 1800s, scientist Alessandro Volta discovered that the movement of electrons is triggered when two dissimilar metals are brought into contact with an electrolytic solution electron. This remains the basic principle which underlies the operation of all batteries developed ever since, including the novel Brussels sprouts battery used to power the Southbank Christmas tree.