Winning High School Science Fair Projects
Dirty Power- Exploring the Potential of Biological Electron Transfer From Microbial Nanowires as an Energy Source for Developing Countries
This project was actually completed as my 7th grade project however it is a high school level project. I feel I was inspired to do this project by visiting NAVSEA. I chose this project because ever since learning about Michael Faraday, I have had a passion for electricity. I also chose it because there are many other countries who are far less fortunate than us. Having a light to read with at night or the ability to charge a cell phone is taken for granted here, but in other places such as rural India or Africa many people don't have electricity. I presented myself with the challenge of creating a low cost portable power source for developing countries.
The purpose of my project was to determine if it was possible to create an environmentally friendly, low cost, portable power source for developing countries. My hypothesis was that I would be able to create an alternative environmentally friendly low cost power source to help developing countries by constructing a dirt battery from the soil we walk upon every day.
Using the data from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service Bristol County, Massachusetts, Southern Part, General Soil Map, I gathered 7 soil types to test. Prior to constructing my dirt batteries, I conducted testing over a period of 8 weeks to prove dirt power was not only possible but also sustainable. I also used a soil meter to measure fertility, moisture, and Ph and a digital multi-meter to measure DC Voltage. I tested my variables weekly, 30 times each.
There were four factors that affected my project: fertility, moisture, Ph, and soil type. After determining the most efficient soil type and battery design, I created twelve 6” long PVC battery capsules filled with 8 tablespoons of soil with a 2” copper and zinc rod inserted in either end. My batteries create a way for the microbes in the soil to conduct anaerobic respiration or “rock breathing” and thus transfer electrons form their microbial nano-wires to the copper and zinc and thereby create electricity that can be harvested. Each time another battery was added the DC voltage was increased however, while they were linked, there was some voltage drop off. Even with the slightly decreased voltage, I was still able to generate between 9.85-10.55 DC volts depending on battery configuration.
On week 8 of my testing when I configured my summary charts, I concluded that my variables fertility, moisture, and Ph. had no effect on voltage generation. This means that soil energy is virtually unaffected, therefore extending it through all climates. Based on the findings of this project I determined that you can harness the power of microbes found in soil. This experiment could be improved by making my batteries more compact and creating a way to receive more voltage from them such as keeping the microbes in a state of aerobic respiration. Similar technology is currently being experimented with at Harvard University in the hope to provide electricity to places in Africa. With soil being all around us, we have the potential to produce amazing amounts of electricity.
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Electricity from Dirt: Is it Possible?. (n.d.). Inventions, Innovations and Interesting Ideas for the
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Sound Charge- The Utilization of Sound Waves to Stimulate a Piezoelectric Effect
This is my current project for 9th grade. I was inspired to create this project because of the budgetory deficits faced by cities today. Sound power is a clean, innovative, inexpensive, and renewable resource that can harness the noise pollution of everyday life. The average city population in the U.S. is 102,157 people. The average constant noise level of a city is about 70 decibels. . Sound power has a lot of potential because noise is constant and so will the electricity generated. Sound power can play an important role in our energy future by powering simple electronic devices. (There is no 8th grade project because I was double promoted to 9th grade)
The purpose of my project was to determine if you can produce clean energy from sound by using piezoelectric resonators to capture the vibrations of sound waves. My hypothesis was that I would be able to generate an alternative environmentally friendly, low-cost, portable power source for large cities by constructing a sound power generator that will operate on the noise pollution in cities.
My apparatus creates a way for the sound to transfer its energy to the piezoelectric disk in the form of vibrations. The vibrations create mechanical stress on the piezoelectric disk and due to the polarized crystals, the disk produces a charge.
I conducted three separate tests; one indoor simulation with my hertz generator and two tests in the field with ambient noise; one at the Government Center at the Route 195 East/West Overpass and one during a Super Bowl party. I tested sound generation in each location 30 times.
There were five actors that affected my project: Hz, location of testing, electrical output, generator design, and temperature. The amount of electricity produced from the sound generator varied greatly from 0.65mV to 13.2mV depending on the Hz applied. It seems that the disk stored up energy and then released it in a cycle, going from high to low. Increasing the number of hertz past 400 hertz actually had a negative effect on voltage generation. I believe this is because higher pitch sound produces waves that are much closer to each other than lower pitch sounds. This would cause weaker vibrations than a low pitch sound. Due to piezoelectric disks working off of vibrations, the stronger the vibration the more voltage would be produced.
Based on the findings of this project I concluded you can produce clean energy from sound by using piezoelectric resonators to capture the vibrations of sound waves. This is fairly new technology that can potentially replace some of our dependence on fossil fuels. Based upon my sound alignment testing, my device had the potential to generate 11.8 Volts outdoors and up to 23.7 Volts indoors. While the voltage could be considered minimal I believe that this technology could be used to power a sign on the highway or stoplights. This experiment could be improved by enhancing the design of my device to capture a wider range of sound waves, amplifying the sound waves captured, adding a rectifier to collect the energy generated, and creating a way to receive more voltage from the piezoelectric generators. I enjoyed working on this project and I hope to work on it more in the future by possibly attaching it to a cellular telephone and capturing sound waves as people speak.
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Tell Me Why?: How does sound travel?. (n.d.). Tell Me Why?. Retrieved September 12, 2013,
Yang, J. (2005). An introduction to the theory of piezoelectricity. New York: Springer.