Electromagnetic nail on a battery

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Electromagnetic nail on a battery
Age Range 5-8 (grades 1-2), 8-11 (grades 3-5), 11-14 (grades 6-8), 14-18 (grades 9-12)
Group Size small (1-5), medium (6-20)
Setting indoors, outdoors
Setup Time short (0-5 min)
Duration short (5-10 min)
Subjects electricity
Key terms electromagnetism
Materials 1 aa battery, magnets, nail, insulated copper wire with ends stripped
Presentation Style demonstration

Brief Description

Students will create a homopolar motor which will spin a screw on the bottom of a battery.

Scientific Background

A homopolar motor is a device that converts a magnetic field and a direct electrical current (DC) into motion. The main parts are a permanent magnet with an adjacent metal disc and shaft; homopolar means only one pole or side of the magnet is next to the rotor. Direct current is applied to the disc and it rotates due to the effects of the current passing through the magnetic field.

This Is How You Play

  1. Place a few strong neodymium magnets on the head of screw.
  2. Allow the tip of the screw shaft to stick to the negative end of a single AA battery.
  3. With your finger, hold the copper end of an insulated wire on the positive end of the battery.
  4. Gently touch the other end of the copper of the insulated wire to the magnets attached to the screw.
  5. The screw should start spinning underneath the battery.


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