WARNING: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. We are dealing with live wires and 120 volts of electricity which can cause fire and/or injuries.
Have you ever wanted to electrify something just to see what would happen? Running electricity of a high voltage through a pickle is definitely dangerous, but also tons of fun! But how is the circuit completed, and why does the pickle glow?
There are two basic types of electricity, static and dynamic. Static electricity is simply a buildup of electrons on a surface whereas dynamic electricity is a steady flow of electrons. Dynamic electricity is what powers things like our home electronics and appliances. There is about 120 volts that can come out of a wall socket, which is exactly what we used to power this experiment.
In order for this experiment to work, we need to be able to complete the circuit. Luckily, pickles are great conductors of electricity due to their high salt content, meaning that electricity can easily flow through them. The salt found in pickles is sodium chloride, NaCl. Electricity at 120 volts is powerful enough to split the NaCl apart into Na+ and Cl-. It then strips the extra electron from the sodium atom producing a photon of yellow-orange light, which is the glow that you see!
If you connect multiple pickles together by a conductive material such as a nail, you will still be able to see the glowing effect. In fact, it is possible to make a long chain of glowing pickles in this manner. However, the more you link the more energy it takes to make it through the circuit and therefore the dimmer the glow will be. How many pickles do you think it would take to no longer see the light?
Written by: Mimi Garai