Many of us young science geeks dabbled with magnets and electricity. We learned that you can attach a copper and zinc electrode and make yourself a low current (output around 0.4 V at 0.6 mA) potato battery to power a light bulb, thanks to the presence of electrolytes. Then you have an over achiever like video game developer and inventor Marek Baczynski, who took that idea several steps deeper. Marek built what could be the world’s first autonomous potato, and the ultimate house-pet, which he’s dubbed ‘Pontus.’.
The design of the self-powered spud revolves around collecting the potato current using an energy-harvesting chip, which is then stored in a super capacitor. Once it has built up enough energy it causes the potato to slowly move. Pontus rolls on a pair of toy wheels and motor from a CD drive.
With a fresh potato, Pontus takes about 15 minutes to charge, but this will carry it just a few inches at a time, before it starts to recharge again.
According to Baczynski, it can travel about 24.6 feet (inch by inch) over the course of an entire day. Baczynski eventually updated the design to allow Pontus to travel in different directions instead of only straight ahead. The inventor bestowed Pontus with an additional motor, and a control board to which he wrote a simple programming script. Now Pontus can randomly ‘choose’ its direction of movement.
Make Your Own Self Driving Potato
For anyone interested in building your own version of Pontus, Baczynski wasconsiderate enough to part out his design here and says that the experiment should only cost about $10 to build.