Hidden Power

This program developed by The Franklin Institute, in partnership with Penn State MRSEC, through funding by the National Science Foundation and Penn State University, is a set of eight eight cart-based, hands-on activities that highlight concepts of energy, electricity generation, and efficiency. Demonstrations of real phenomena will appeal to visitors of all ages, while interactive macro-scale models foster a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms at the atomic scale. These activities raise awareness of energy materials and their applications and build understanding of the invisible forces at work.

View the shows below to learn more about each demo.

Demonstrations - Hidden Power

Batteries are essential for powering all of the portable electronic devices we rely on, but what actually happens when you charge your cell phone? In this activity, hook up a simple electrochemical cell to a voltmeter to see how chemical energy can be converted to electricity.

Choosing efficient light bulbs is a simple way to conserve electricity. In this activity, use your senses to compare the efficiency of different light bulbs.

The materials inside LEDs produce efficient lighting in a rainbow of colors. In this activity, experiment with different colored LEDs to discover how colors of light carry different amounts of energy.

Change the shape of a piezoelectric material, and you can create electricity. In this activity, test this phenomenon by shaking a polymer strip or tapping a ceramic transducer to light up a small bulb.


Visitors will understand how solar cells function through a molecular model and a small-scale demonstration.

Where can we find energy? In this introductory activity, play a "seek and find" challenge to find the sources of power in a scene from everyday life.

Take a fan attached to two metal fins, put one fin in hot water and one in cold water, and soon the fan starts spinning - it's thermoelectricity in action.

Most of the electricity in the United States is produced by steam turbines. In this activity, use a hair dryer, representing steam, to spin a fan and generate electricity.