How to make your own battery

Use some smart science and an ice cube tray to create a battery at home

1. Wrap your nail

First, you need to find some galvanised nails (it’s important that they’re galvanised) and some copper wire. Wrap the copper wire around the nail five times near the head, leaving around eight centimetres of wire sticking out.

2. Get four more

Repeat the process above with four more nails so that you have five in total. You need a few to create the circuit – you can use more, but for now we’ll manage with five. It should provide plenty of power for the LED.

3. Fill your tray

Next you need to fill six adjacent sections of an ice cube tray with distilled white vinegar. They need to be next to each other so you can create a circuit, so make sure you use six in a pattern as we’ve shown here.

4. Place the nails in

Place the nails into the vinegar with the pointy ends in the liquid. Bend the wire so the loose end is submerged in the vinegar in the next section. Make sure it’s not touching the other nail.

5. Add an LED

To test your circuit place an LED between the final two sections of the ice cube tray to complete the ring. The LED should light up, showing you that your circuit is complete and power is flowing.

6. Turn it around

If your LED didn’t light, don’t worry. Take it out, rotate it 180 degrees and put it back in with the two wires in the opposite sections to the ones they were in before.


Voltaic batteries work when metal electrodes and an acid help electrons flow. In this case the electrodes are in the zinc coating the nails and the copper in the wire. The acid in the vinegar helps them flow too, and because all of the sections in the tray are linked it creates a circuit. The electrons power the LED, so you can see it working.

This article was originally published in How It Works issue 122

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