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All are interrelated

I was thinking last night as I worked on a Lemon Battery presentation for the ‘MAKER KIDS” section of our upcoming maker/education/local manufacturing event at Richland College, Garland Campus scheduled for mid October about the close connections between technology and nature.

Nature again and again proves inspiration for the creation of new and useful products.  For example, George de Mestral in the 1940’s while hunting in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland realized that the tiny hooks of the cockle burs were stuck on his pants and in his dog’s fur and wondered how they attached themselves.  From that curiosity came his invention of Velcro—an idea inspired by nature. 

I just read this morning while researching the topic of batteries that In a paper published in the most recent issue of Nature Nanotechnology, researchers at the Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) have described how an electrode designed after a pomegranate seed could improve the durability of silicon-based batteries. Indeed nature is the inspiration for many designs and has been since the beginning of time.

Makerspaces provide crossroads for the meeting of minds from various disciplines.  It is at these intersections where some of the most brilliant new ideas are born. On the heels of these inspirations we often end up with products that make the world a better place. 

For example, until the Square (now a $2billion dollar company) was born in a makerspace, most small entrepreneurs had no way to accept credit card payments that was affordable for them.  Along came the Square and now hundreds of thousands of people have the same access to technology that box chains have to process credit card payments.  In turn, all of this transfer of money contributes to the robustness of local economies and helps us all.

The lemon battery build with kids and adults is entertaining; however, it is also educational and could even perhaps be the inspiration for new products.  Lemon-powered clocks work by using the process of electrolysis. The lemon juice is an acidic electrolyte. 

Two lemons equal one AA battery or a 1.5-volt button cell battery and they generally last for about two weeks.  If we do choose this as a maker activity,  we will let kids hook up a battery operated clock to two lemons and they can see the clock begin to run. Then we will talk about electricity and batteries, raising such questions:  Is it possible that we could use lemon juice to power batteries?  We will also stress safety—always a principle to be practiced by inventors and makers.

NEVER TAKE A BATTERY APART.  Some batteries are more toxic than others but all have some degree of toxicity. They are even bad in landfills as they undergo a photo-chemical reaction as they decompose that causes emissions of greenhouse gases.  Lithium batteries cans cause landfill fires that burn underground for years.  Again this releases toxic chemicals into the air.

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