Build a Battery

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Learners build a simple one-cell battery and use an ammeter to measure the flow of current. They add solutions of sodium sulfate and copper sulfate to separate bowls, and connect the solutions with a salt bridge. Leads of copper and zinc complete the circuit. This activity is currently used in the Chemical Reactions Unit in OMSI's Chemistry Lab. Cost estimates are per 100 learners. For safety reasons, this activity should be conducted as a demonstration for younger audiences.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
Under 5 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • filter paper
  • 200g copper sulfate pentahydrate (CuSO4-5H2O)
  • 500g sodium sulfate (NaSO4)
  • 250-mL squeeze bottles
  • zinc sheet, 1in by 2in
  • copper sheet, 1in by 2in
  • electrical tape
  • (2) wire leads with alligator clips
  • (2) small bowls, 2in diameter
  • 500mL plastic beaker
  • microammeter (0-500 uA)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electric Circuits
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 9355628