Harvesting Chemicals from a Battery

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In this activity, learners take apart a used zinc-carbon dry cell battery. Besides making for an interesting lesson in electrochemistry, taking apart a spent D-cell also allows learners to salvage many materials which can be reused in other chemistry experiments (see related link). Separated materials can also be safely recycled. Note that the battery in this activity is a zinc-carbon dry cell. Zinc-carbon cells are commonly labeled "general purpose" or "heavy duty," and will not have the word "alkaline" on the case.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 hobby knife and spare blades
  • pair of scissors
  • hammer
  • mortar and pestle
  • small flathead screwdriver
  • strainer
  • tray
  • D cell (spent, zinc-carbon cell, not alkaline)
  • wax paper
  • coffee filter
  • safety gloves
  • safety goggles


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
    • Chemistry
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elements and Periodic Table

Informal Categories

  • Electronics


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Ragan, Sean Michael


  • All rights reserved, Make Projects, 2011