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Peanut Power

Peanut Power

A tiny peanut contains stored chemical energy. When we eat them, the stored energy is converted by our bodies so we can do work. We can also use the energy in a peanut to heat a container of water.
What do you need ?

A small bag/can of unsalted, shelled peanuts

A cork

A needle

A large metal juice or coffee can

A small metal can (like a soup can) with paper label removed

A can opener

A hammer

A large nail

A metal BBQ skewer (like the kind for kebobs)

About a cup of water

A thermometer

Some matches or a lighter (ask an adult for help here)

A piece of paper and pencil to record your observations

What do you do ?

Carefully push the eye of the needle into the smaller end of the cork.

Then gently push the pointed end of the needle into a peanut. If you push too hard the peanut will break. If it does, use another peanut. It’s also better to have the peanut at a slight angle.

Remove the two ends of the large juice can with the can opener. Be careful as the top’s and bottom’s edge can be sharp!

Using the hammer and nail, have an adult punch holes around the bottom of the large can. These are air holes that will make the can act like a chimney and will contain the heat energy focussing it on the smaller can.


Remove the top end of the small can (if it is not already removed).

Using the hammer and nail, punch two holes near the top of the small can exactly opposite each other.

Slide the BBQ skewer through the holes of the small can.

Pour 1/2 cup of water into the small can and let it sit for an hour. This will allow the water to be heated or cooled to room temperature. (Munch on some peanuts while you’re waiting.)

Put the thermometer into the water and record the temperature on your paper.

Place the cork and peanut on a nonflammable surface. Light the peanut with a match or lighter. Have an adult help you! Sometimes the peanut can be difficult to light, so the lighter may be easier to use.

As soon as the peanut has caught fire, immediately place the large can around the nut. Balance the skewer holding the small can on the top of the large can.

Allow the nut to burn for several minutes or until it goes out.

Stir the water with the thermometer and record the temperature again.

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