Electricity with citrus circuits
Brian Saccardi demonstrated charge separation as a form of generating electricity at the Cornwall Library on Saturday, Jan. 7. 
Photo by Riley Klein

Electricity with citrus circuits

CORNWALL — The Cornwall Library was buzzing as two area experts led a discussion and demonstration on electricity on Saturday, Jan. 7.

Local electrician Steve Saccardi teamed up with his son and UMass Amherst PhD student Brian Saccardi to provide insight on the fundamentals of electricity.

The duo addressed the science behind electro-magnetism as a force and reviewed the different ways electricity can be generated and harnessed.

“The electro-magnetic field is concentrated along the outside of the wires that run to things like lights,” said Steve Saccardi. “The reason those fields exist is because inside the wire there is an electron moving.”

After an in-depth discussion on how and why electricity works, the Saccardis provided visual demonstrations on two different methods for generating electricity.

First, a circuit consisting of four lemons and four oranges, each rigged with copper wire and zinc nails, was used to power a small light bulb.

“If you have two dissimilar metals, one has a stronger affinity for electrons than the other,” said Brian Saccardi as he explained the chemistry behind the experiment. “When put in a substance that allows electrons to easily move, the metals will trade electrons.”

He explained this process is fundamentally the same as the science that occurs in everyday batteries, with the citrus acting as battery acid in this experiment.

After using lemons to light a bulb, the Saccardis demonstrated a Van de Graaf machine, which uses charge separation to generate voltage. In a Van de Graaf machine, high voltage direct current is generated at low levels through the movement of a belt inside an insulated column.

The discussion was presented as part of the Cornwall Conversations program at the library.

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