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Every kid who has been to a science fair knows that you can make a battery with a lemon, a potato, a penny and a nail. I've never done this and I'm not entirely clear on how it works beyond a hazy recollection of undergraduate-level chemistry class; but I gather that you do not need to use a lemon and potato as your power source but can in fact use any number of substances willing to donate or accept electrons.

My question is this: are there any home-made batteries that can produce sufficient electrical energy that its cheaper to make them yourself rather than plug your appliance into the wall or use store-bought batteries

I realize that there are a number of variables here that might make a significant difference in whether its cheaper to use established electricity sources or create your own so for arguments sake lets say that I am trying to: - charge a cell phone/laptop - run a microwave long enough to make popcorn - keep a refrigerator cold

Lets also consider the dual possibilities that I: - live in a city apartment and have to buy all my fuels and materials - live on my own far where I can grow as much produce as I want to devote to making batteries

If there are other good fuel sources that could be a logistic variable; let me know in the comments so I can edit the question accordingly.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

No: trying to catch up with 100+ years of technological optimizations in your kitchen won't be an economical enterprise. Store-brought batteries are standardized and relatively inexpensive. Power from an outlet is even less expensive (by one or two orders of magnitude).

On the other hand, in many places you can save on electricity by going solar. Even if you can't install solar panels on your roof because you don't own a house, you could buy solar chargers for small appliances if you have a sunny corner in your apartment...

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In general, think of batteries (including chemical nonrechargeable ones) as tools for storing and transporting energy, not as an energy source.

If you want to create energy through chemistry, then the economically efficient way is the way everyone else does it, through exothermic oxidation - burn stuff and use it to power a generator.

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