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.
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.
The mission will pioneer a new source of power in extreme conditions in the upper atmosphere, shattering existing records.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
T-Shirts, Patches, and mission swag
Support the potato balloon with a t-shirt reward and get something with this awesome design!
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
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