Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
This near-space mission will be powered by potatoes to over 100,000 feet above the Earth, taking pictures along the way.
This near-space mission will be powered by potatoes to over 100,000 feet above the Earth, taking pictures along the way.
42 backers pledged $1,811 to help bring this project to life.

About

A Potato-Powered Flight to Near Space project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

$1,811

42

We did it!!!  Special thanks to all the early donors.  $1500 for a larger balloon that will break 100,000 feet...done!  New goal is $1800 for a GoPro that will record video of the potato's amazing journey + backup GPS locator.

The Dream

We're funding a mission to near-space, powered entirely by potato batteries.

We are a group of engineers who have built multiple high-altitude weather balloons.  These balloons travel from 75,000 to 100,000+ feet above the Earth, a region known as "near space."

The upper atmosphere presents many extremes: low pressure, little oxygen, freezing temperatures.  In this environment, we normally use lithium batteries to power our electronics.  However, we've discovered that instead we can use a potato to power electronics in near-space.

Our near-space missions capture beautiful pictures of Earth.
Our near-space missions capture beautiful pictures of Earth.

The mission will pioneer a new source of power in extreme conditions in the upper atmosphere, shattering existing records.

The Potato

Potatoes are mighty plants; they have been cultivated since the dawn of civilization and are spread throughout the world.

They also generate power, making them both delicious and useful.

No one has ever powered a near-space flight using a potato.  We're about to change that and soar into the history books, and we need your help.

Potatoes acting as power-producing batteries.
Potatoes acting as power-producing batteries.

The Science

A potato is an electrochemical battery.  A potato battery can be created by inserting copper and zinc electrodes into a potato.  A simple way is to insert a nail into each potato and a copper wire in the opposite end.

Chemical energy is converted into electrical energy.  Ions from the copper and zinc want to react with one another, but the potato forces the energy to travel on our circuit, powering electronics.

A potato acts as a galvanic cell.
A potato acts as a galvanic cell.

We don't need a lot of watt hours, we just want to maximize our battery to produce maximal amp-hours. Our theory is that fingerling potatoes with a nail running lengthwise through the body would probably be the best Amp-Hour/Kg configuration.

PIR (potato internal resistance) will likely go up dramatically as the temperature falls.  We will test potatoes under conditions of extreme cold to characterize this relationship.  We may build a PPT (peak potato tracker) to deliver the most power on our PV curve, or simply use more potatoes.

A room powered by potatoes.
A room powered by potatoes.

Potato batteries are not without their challenges, but the science is solid.  In fact, researchers have discovered that boiled potatoes produce ten times more power than raw potatoes, and it's possible to power a room for a month using only potatoes!  We're going to make a best effort to charge using only potatoes.

The Plan

A balloon, parachute, and payload.  Our experience in high altitude ballooning shows that we can accomplish a basic flight for less than $1000.  The rest goes to potatoes, metal (zinc and copper sheets), and various costs like t-shirts for our backers.  If we exceed our goal, we'll make the balloon bigger, so it goes even higher and carries even more potatoes.

A high-altitude balloon is a very simple flight vehicle.  The balloon is filled with helium, which will lift an insulated payload box to near space.

The payload will contain:

  • a camera that will take amazing and beautiful pictures of Earth from 100,000 feet.  
  • a tracking device so we can eventually recover the balloon and camera.
  • a potato.

All electronics are running on power generated by potatoes.  Before launch, the devices will be fully charged using power from many potatoes in serial.  A potato battery will also be included in the payload, providing electricity during the flight.

An engineer filling up a space balloon that can carry a potato payload.
An engineer filling up a space balloon that can carry a potato payload.
The basic layout of our payload.
The basic layout of our payload.
Engineer in the lab seemingly focused on assembling a balloon payload, but actually thinking about potatoes.
Engineer in the lab seemingly focused on assembling a balloon payload, but actually thinking about potatoes.

T-Shirts, Patches, and mission swag

Support the potato balloon with a t-shirt reward and get something with this awesome design!

Questions?

We want to give everyone the chance to find out all they can about this exciting potato mission to space.  If you have any questions, please reach out either via Kickstarter or through our website.  We read everything and will do our best to respond to everyone.

Risks and challenges

Many things can go wrong in a high altitude balloon flight, and it's possible the balloon and potato will not be recovered. Although we have successfully launched a balloon, taken pictures of space, and recovered it in the past, there is no guarantee against unusual circumstances such as sudden bad weather, theft, hungry birds, etc.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    SMALL FRY: updates and pictures of the 30+ potato serial battery we'll use to charge the tracking device, and exclusive pics of the potato that will fly to near space.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    7 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    POTATO WHISPERER: A computer program will speak your names to the potato, on loop, for 24 hours prior to its flight (this will be livestreamed).

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    3 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    THE GUIDE: Our complete guide to launching a cheap high-altitude balloon that reaches 100k ft and takes pictures of Earth.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    6 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    POTATO PARENT: You name one of the potatoes used to charge the balloon. The name will be publicly emblazoned on the potato and you'll get pictures. Potato Whisperer reward included.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Limited 5 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    FRIES WITH THAT: You get a slice of a potato used to charge the balloon electronics, mission t-shirt, and our guide to building a high-altitude ballon.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    FILMED WITH A POTATO: A beautiful coffee table book that documents the creation of the potato balloon and includes near-space photos taken from the balloon. Includes our guide to building a high-altitude balloon.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    12 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $90 or more About $90

    SPACE POTATO: You receive a slice of the potato that has flown to near-space, our guide to building a high-altitude balloon, a mission t-shirt, and Potato Whisperer reward included.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $180 or more About $180

    MR POTATO HEAD: You name the balloon. The name will be visible on the outside of the payload box. You'll get pictures. Mission t-shirt included, and you pick an email address @spacepotato.org.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Reward no longer available 1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    POTATO GODFATHER: You name the potato that flies to near space. The name will be publicly emblazoned on the potato. You'll get pictures. Mission t-shirt included, and you pick an email address @spacepotato.org.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Reward no longer available 1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (30 days)