A new Guinness World Records® title for the highest voltage from a fruit battery has been set by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), battery expert Professor Saiful Islam and science presenter Fran Scott.
The RSC team used 2,923 lemons to generate an astonishing 2,307.8 volts, which smashed the previous world record of 1,521 volts, and subsequently launching a battery-powered go-kart race run by the Blair Project in Manchester.
The electrifying feat was designed by the Royal Society of Chemistry to highlight the importance of energy storage and the need for new innovations for a zero-carbon world against the backdrop of the COP26 Climate Change Summit.
Alongside the record title, the RSC has undertaken research to understand awareness and attitudes around sustainability and climate change amongst young people, to provide critical insight into the teaching of sustainability-related topics in schools, published in its new report Green shoots: A sustainable chemistry curriculum for a sustainable planet
The results show young people are extremely engaged in issues related to climate change and sustainability. More than three-quarters noted that they feel climate change is an urgent priority to solve, and that responsibility for doing this must be shared (both 78%). Three-quarters (75%) of respondents stated that they feel anxious about the future of the planet, while 74% are actively looking for ways to help combat climate change.
Responses also demonstrate young people see an urgent need for education and information on climate change issues. Just under two-thirds believe schools, colleges and universities have the greatest role to play (59%), followed by governments (50%) and scientific societies (49%).
Together with existing teacher research, the RSC says the findings should encourage the Government to go further in its plans to put climate change at the heart of education and address the significant shortcomings in secondary school by utilising chemistry’s pivotal position in being able to tackle climate change issues.
Dr Helen Pain, Royal Society of Chemistry CEO, said: “Public concern around climate change is at record levels. Succeeding in our Guinness World Records attempt to produce the highest voltage from a fruit battery has been tremendous fun, but the sustainability message underpinning it is incredibly serious and important”.
The message of sustainability issues being a key priority for the curriculum was loud and clear in the survey. Eight in ten young people (81%) believe it is important for schools to teach about climate change and sustainability. The same proportion (79%) also see it as a priority for the chemistry curriculum, with a third (34%) looking to see more coverage of sustainability-related issues in science lessons, increasing to half (49%) for chemistry lessons.
The survey also showed young people (aged 11-18) are interested in work and study in sustainability and climate change, but levels of access to information are mixed. While two thirds (66%) are interested in future careers or study related to sustainability, only four in ten (38%) believe there is a clear link between studying chemistry and future sustainability careers.
Professor Saiful Islam, a trustee of the Royal Society of Chemistry, professor of materials chemistry at the University of Bath and expert panel member of the Faraday Institution, said: “It was very exciting to regain our Guinness World Records title by squeezing the highest voltage from a fruit battery. It’s an amazing feat, but it’s still not an effective battery – the amount of electrical power would not be enough to turn on a smart television.
“Batteries have a vital role to play in reducing carbon emissions – and have come a long way with modern lithium batteries helping to power the revolution in portable electronics and mobile phones.
“If we are serious about reaching net zero carbon status we need better batteries – to power more electric vehicles and to store the energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
“It’s an exciting time to be a scientist in general and a chemical scientist in particular – as scientific research is crucial to understand how batteries work and to discover new materials that will give us technologies that can store more energy, are safer and recharge faster.
“We also have to be able to recycle and reuse these batteries effectively to enable a truly sustainable energy future.”
The Guinness World Records® title was set as part of the RSC’s ongoing commitment to promoting chemistry and acting as a catalyst for change, together with its focus on driving increased awareness and education on sustainability and the impact of climate change.
Royal Society of Chemistry CEO, Dr Helen Pain, added: “Public concern around climate change is at record levels. Succeeding in our Guinness World Records attempt to squeeze the highest voltage from a fruit battery has been tremendous fun, but the message underpinning it is incredibly serious and important.
“Sustainability and climate change must become a key priority for the curriculum, and there needs to be a substantial collective effort to improve access to the ways we bring this education to young people across the country. Our survey demonstrates that there is a clear need to increase the awareness of career and study options among older teens, females and BAME groups in particular.
“We acknowledge that at the Royal Society of Chemistry, we must build on our strong awareness and the clear role we play to broaden accessibility of information for all. Beyond this, we need to see educators, governments, scientists and the media driving debate further.”
The Guinness World Record attempt was officially witnessed by Dr Marilyn Comrie OBE and recorded by pyrotechnician and Science Content Producer Fran Scott.
Following the record attempt, the used lemons were responsibly processed by Refood in Widnes, who generate renewable energy from food waste using the anaerobic digestion method (similar to an industrial-scale compost heap) to produce biogas. After further refinement the biogas is pumped directly into the National Gas Grid. Any remaining liquid is transformed into bio-fertiliser for local farming and agricultural use.