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Clean Power onion-darwin-bell

Published on November 24th, 2008 | by Andrew Williams

89

Music Fan Charges iPod With an Onion

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November 24th, 2008 by  

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Music fan Owen Louis was so concerned about the amount of energy used up by his iPod, that he figured out a way of charging it up … with nothing more than an onion.

Louis, 21, from Portsmouth in the UK, makes two holes in an onion, before soaking it in an everyday energy drink and connecting it to his MP3 via a standard USB cable. Incredibly, the technique (video) enables him to charge his iPod for a full hour. According to Louis, “A friend showed me the experiment as a laugh but I thought it was the greatest thing I have ever seen, and do it religiously every day.”

Speaking about the technique, Phil Stubbles, a physics lecturer from Hampshire said that almost all vegetables could power iPods because they contain ions which react with energy drinks to create a charge. “The only problem is you have no control over how long it may work for … and it can be smelly,” he added.

Author’s Note – Since it first hit the newswires, this story has been causing something of a stir in the blogosphere.  First came itwire, claiming that the story is a hoax. Then, a number of other blogs, including macworlduk, shiny shiny and digitalspy ran with the story claiming it was true (or at least open to debate). However, according to the Guardian (25 November), it appears that the basic science behind the idea is correct, but that this particular technique is a hoax. The article quotes Jon Edwards of the UK Royal Society of Chemistry (no less), who says “The science behind the idea isn’t bad – you can generate an electric current from vegetables – but the video is a hoax.”  He explains that it can’t work because you need two electrodes to provide a reaction and a reason for an electric current to flow.

Out of interest, do any readers have any more technical information on this? Or perhaps you’ve tried the experiment yourself? If so, feel free to get involved and make a comment.

Image Credit – Darwin Bell via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license

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About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.



  • http://www.drainit.ie/ Drain IT

    Attention, iPod Owner! Before spending a single cent on iPod
    accessories, find out what is the first iPod accessory you must
    have….before it is TOO LATE!

  • lucas

    No this is not true because You can’t charge an ipod with an onion for two reasons: no anode and cathode to form a voltage pair, but more importantly ipods talk to the charging. But you will get a electric charge from it because an onion is very acidic so that brings me to say total hoax and me a 13 year old can figure this out its prity sad that over half the people on the internet tryed it or believe it .

  • lucas

    No this is not true because You can’t charge an ipod with an onion for two reasons: no anode and cathode to form a voltage pair, but more importantly ipods talk to the charging. But you will get a electric charge from it because an onion is very acidic so that brings me to say total hoax and me a 13 year old can figure this out its prity sad that over half the people on the internet tryed it or believe it .

  • http://url.ie/h1b?363103697 website design

    “So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time.”

  • http://url.ie/h1b?363103697 website design

    “So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time.”

  • Mike Ratliff

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Science/story?id=6339986&page=1

    This myth has been busted. Think about it, how could this actually work? There are no electrodes as with a battery. Maybe they should have tried a watermelon, it is bigger right? That means more power right? (Sarcasm)

  • Mike Ratliff

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Science/story?id=6339986&page=1

    This myth has been busted. Think about it, how could this actually work? There are no electrodes as with a battery. Maybe they should have tried a watermelon, it is bigger right? That means more power right? (Sarcasm)

  • Mike Ratliff

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Science/story?id=6339986&page=1

    This myth has been busted. Think about it, how could this actually work? There are no electrodes as with a battery. Maybe they should have tried a watermelon, it is bigger right? That means more power right? (Sarcasm)

  • Mike Ratliff

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Science/story?id=6339986&page=1

    This myth has been busted. Think about it, how could this actually work? There are no electrodes as with a battery. Maybe they should have tried a watermelon, it is bigger right? That means more power right? (Sarcasm)

  • Steve

    Or we could just start burning trees to produce electricity! Trees would be considered alternative energy. We could just cut down all the forests and burn them, then, grow onions on the newly formed farmland to charge our ipods. We’ll save the world by deforestation!

  • Steve

    Or we could just start burning trees to produce electricity! Trees would be considered alternative energy. We could just cut down all the forests and burn them, then, grow onions on the newly formed farmland to charge our ipods. We’ll save the world by deforestation!

  • Steve

    Or we could just start burning trees to produce electricity! Trees would be considered alternative energy. We could just cut down all the forests and burn them, then, grow onions on the newly formed farmland to charge our ipods. We’ll save the world by deforestation!

  • Steve

    Or we could just start burning trees to produce electricity! Trees would be considered alternative energy. We could just cut down all the forests and burn them, then, grow onions on the newly formed farmland to charge our ipods. We’ll save the world by deforestation!

  • http://www.myspace.com/earlvanze Earl Co

    You guys should get with the times. I saw this on Instructables last year. Nothing new. Amazing anyways.

  • http://www.myspace.com/earlvanze Earl Co

    You guys should get with the times. I saw this on Instructables last year. Nothing new. Amazing anyways.

  • http://www.myspace.com/earlvanze Earl Co

    You guys should get with the times. I saw this on Instructables last year. Nothing new. Amazing anyways.

  • http://www.myspace.com/earlvanze Earl Co

    You guys should get with the times. I saw this on Instructables last year. Nothing new. Amazing anyways.

  • Brian

    This will not work because ions only travel from an area of greater charge to an area of lesser charge; when plugging in the USB cable to the top of the onion, the correct pins in the USB cable cannot attach to the correct areas of greater or lesser charge in the onion.

    And, just because there are electrolytes inside the onion does not mean that they carry the necessary voltage/amperage for the device to begin charging anyway.

  • Brian

    This will not work because ions only travel from an area of greater charge to an area of lesser charge; when plugging in the USB cable to the top of the onion, the correct pins in the USB cable cannot attach to the correct areas of greater or lesser charge in the onion.

    And, just because there are electrolytes inside the onion does not mean that they carry the necessary voltage/amperage for the device to begin charging anyway.

  • Brian

    This will not work because ions only travel from an area of greater charge to an area of lesser charge; when plugging in the USB cable to the top of the onion, the correct pins in the USB cable cannot attach to the correct areas of greater or lesser charge in the onion.

    And, just because there are electrolytes inside the onion does not mean that they carry the necessary voltage/amperage for the device to begin charging anyway.

  • Brian

    This will not work because ions only travel from an area of greater charge to an area of lesser charge; when plugging in the USB cable to the top of the onion, the correct pins in the USB cable cannot attach to the correct areas of greater or lesser charge in the onion.

    And, just because there are electrolytes inside the onion does not mean that they carry the necessary voltage/amperage for the device to begin charging anyway.

  • lll

    Same idea as potato alarm clock experiment done in grade school. Can’t vouch for it on my own, but seems plausible enough. My concern would be whether it produces enough voltage/current.

  • lll

    Same idea as potato alarm clock experiment done in grade school. Can’t vouch for it on my own, but seems plausible enough. My concern would be whether it produces enough voltage/current.

  • lll

    Same idea as potato alarm clock experiment done in grade school. Can’t vouch for it on my own, but seems plausible enough. My concern would be whether it produces enough voltage/current.

  • marshoutlaw

    does he know how much energy it takes to grow an onion and produce an energy drink? what a waste of resources.

  • marshoutlaw

    does he know how much energy it takes to grow an onion and produce an energy drink? what a waste of resources.

  • marshoutlaw

    does he know how much energy it takes to grow an onion and produce an energy drink? what a waste of resources.

  • marshoutlaw

    does he know how much energy it takes to grow an onion and produce an energy drink? what a waste of resources.

  • Kenny

    This is a hoax for sure. If you arent convinced, check out some of the other videos that the same authors have put out.

    On the other hand, theoretically, an onion in gatoraide could be turned into a battery if a zinc lead and copper lead were put in. This is called a galvanic cell (look it up). Similarly, people make batteries out of lemons or potatoes with no need for gatoraide using this technique.

    Despite the theoretical possibilities, nothing would happen if you followed the video instructions perfectly, except perhaps draining your ipod battery with a short circuit and getting your cord sticky.

  • Kenny

    This is a hoax for sure. If you arent convinced, check out some of the other videos that the same authors have put out.

    On the other hand, theoretically, an onion in gatoraide could be turned into a battery if a zinc lead and copper lead were put in. This is called a galvanic cell (look it up). Similarly, people make batteries out of lemons or potatoes with no need for gatoraide using this technique.

    Despite the theoretical possibilities, nothing would happen if you followed the video instructions perfectly, except perhaps draining your ipod battery with a short circuit and getting your cord sticky.

  • Kenny

    This is a hoax for sure. If you arent convinced, check out some of the other videos that the same authors have put out.

    On the other hand, theoretically, an onion in gatoraide could be turned into a battery if a zinc lead and copper lead were put in. This is called a galvanic cell (look it up). Similarly, people make batteries out of lemons or potatoes with no need for gatoraide using this technique.

    Despite the theoretical possibilities, nothing would happen if you followed the video instructions perfectly, except perhaps draining your ipod battery with a short circuit and getting your cord sticky.

  • Michael

    I believe it’s true. I watched something one youtube about this over a year ago (I’m surprised it just now got on digg). It makes sense because to me because iPods have lithium ion batteries. I think it’d be neat to try once but the onions and Gatorade is gonna add up if you charge your iPod everyday(And make you cry!)I invested my money in an iPod charger ; )

  • Michael

    I believe it’s true. I watched something one youtube about this over a year ago (I’m surprised it just now got on digg). It makes sense because to me because iPods have lithium ion batteries. I think it’d be neat to try once but the onions and Gatorade is gonna add up if you charge your iPod everyday(And make you cry!)I invested my money in an iPod charger ; )

  • Michael

    I believe it’s true. I watched something one youtube about this over a year ago (I’m surprised it just now got on digg). It makes sense because to me because iPods have lithium ion batteries. I think it’d be neat to try once but the onions and Gatorade is gonna add up if you charge your iPod everyday(And make you cry!)I invested my money in an iPod charger ; )

  • Ariel Schwartz

    @Dan – Thanks for your comment. As you can see, we posted a note at the bottom of the post discussing the factual nature of the onion-powered iPod. As far as “putting thought into this”, reputable news sources from Macworld to the UK Guardian have reported the story.

  • Dan

    Mythbusters takes this one on: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-ionion.html

    Seriously, though, we’ve all seen a potato-powered clock, but for a technology website not to put a little thought into this before posting it as factual speaks poorly of the author and the site’s editorial staff.

  • Dan

    Mythbusters takes this one on: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-ionion.html

    Seriously, though, we’ve all seen a potato-powered clock, but for a technology website not to put a little thought into this before posting it as factual speaks poorly of the author and the site’s editorial staff.

  • Dan

    Mythbusters takes this one on: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-ionion.html

    Seriously, though, we’ve all seen a potato-powered clock, but for a technology website not to put a little thought into this before posting it as factual speaks poorly of the author and the site’s editorial staff.

  • Homer Sipsoy

    Nice reporting… an article based on a that is a proven hoax video that is more than a year old…

  • Homer Sipsoy

    Nice reporting… an article based on a that is a proven hoax video that is more than a year old…

  • Reid

    I’ve tried it before but it did not work for me…

  • Reid

    I’ve tried it before but it did not work for me…

  • Reid

    I’ve tried it before but it did not work for me…

  • http://us.travelchacha.com vacation packages all inclusive

    Quite amazing this way we are going to save a lot of electricty.

  • http://us.travelchacha.com vacation packages all inclusiv

    Quite amazing this way we are going to save a lot of electricty.

  • http://us.travelchacha.com vacation packages all inclusiv

    Quite amazing this way we are going to save a lot of electricty.

  • matt

    so he goes out and wastes like 2 or 3 dollars every day to charge his ipod? that shit adds up

  • matt

    so he goes out and wastes like 2 or 3 dollars every day to charge his ipod? that shit adds up

  • matt

    so he goes out and wastes like 2 or 3 dollars every day to charge his ipod? that shit adds up

  • matt

    so he goes out and wastes like 2 or 3 dollars every day to charge his ipod? that shit adds up

  • EyesWideOpen

    This is quite obviously a hoax, but it’s a riot that they got so many people sucked in on it. heh-heh

    You might want to research this a bit more…or not…either way, you’ve been had!

  • EyesWideOpen

    This is quite obviously a hoax, but it’s a riot that they got so many people sucked in on it. heh-heh

    You might want to research this a bit more…or not…either way, you’ve been had!

  • EyesWideOpen

    This is quite obviously a hoax, but it’s a riot that they got so many people sucked in on it. heh-heh

    You might want to research this a bit more…or not…either way, you’ve been had!

  • Dwindle

    What an incredible waste of an otherwise useful onion.

  • Dwindle

    What an incredible waste of an otherwise useful onion.

  • Dwindle

    What an incredible waste of an otherwise useful onion.

  • Uncle B

    Potatoes with zinc and copper strips can be fashioned into a “battery” powerful enough to run a LED light! Check the net for more examples! Good news for off-griders, emergency power for your cell phone is only a potato away! I prefer solar cells myself, but small crank up emergency radios and lights will work too! Don’t automatically think plug in and entitlement, think outside the box now and then!

  • Uncle B

    Potatoes with zinc and copper strips can be fashioned into a “battery” powerful enough to run a LED light! Check the net for more examples! Good news for off-griders, emergency power for your cell phone is only a potato away! I prefer solar cells myself, but small crank up emergency radios and lights will work too! Don’t automatically think plug in and entitlement, think outside the box now and then!

  • Uncle B

    Potatoes with zinc and copper strips can be fashioned into a “battery” powerful enough to run a LED light! Check the net for more examples! Good news for off-griders, emergency power for your cell phone is only a potato away! I prefer solar cells myself, but small crank up emergency radios and lights will work too! Don’t automatically think plug in and entitlement, think outside the box now and then!

  • zero-kill

    Not worth it.

  • zero-kill

    Not worth it.

  • Steve

    I would propose removing this article.

  • Steve

    I would propose removing this article.

  • Steve

    I would propose removing this article.

  • Jack

    An energy drink and an onion costs more than just buying batteries. The batteries last longer too.

  • Jack

    An energy drink and an onion costs more than just buying batteries. The batteries last longer too.

  • Jack

    An energy drink and an onion costs more than just buying batteries. The batteries last longer too.

  • David Diez

    I’m not sure why this is news or why this would be posted. This wouldn’t become anything widespread, and if it was, it would actually be a bad thing. It takes a lot of energy to produce food so it would be more efficient to power an iPod the traditional way — through an outlet or USB while on a computer — than through an onion and energy drink.

  • David Diez

    I’m not sure why this is news or why this would be posted. This wouldn’t become anything widespread, and if it was, it would actually be a bad thing. It takes a lot of energy to produce food so it would be more efficient to power an iPod the traditional way — through an outlet or USB while on a computer — than through an onion and energy drink.

  • David Diez

    I’m not sure why this is news or why this would be posted. This wouldn’t become anything widespread, and if it was, it would actually be a bad thing. It takes a lot of energy to produce food so it would be more efficient to power an iPod the traditional way — through an outlet or USB while on a computer — than through an onion and energy drink.

  • Lake

    Even if you could do that the amount of co2 used in creating the energy drink and for shipping the energy drink and onion would far out way the little amount of energy an ipod uses.

  • Lake

    Even if you could do that the amount of co2 used in creating the energy drink and for shipping the energy drink and onion would far out way the little amount of energy an ipod uses.

  • Lake

    Even if you could do that the amount of co2 used in creating the energy drink and for shipping the energy drink and onion would far out way the little amount of energy an ipod uses.

  • Lake

    Even if you could do that the amount of co2 used in creating the energy drink and for shipping the energy drink and onion would far out way the little amount of energy an ipod uses.

  • Erik

    This is a hoax … I hope it was meant as such by you guys! The same people that gave you this video show you how to power a TV with an AAA Battery …

    Even if it did create enough power to charge the ipod, sticking the USB plug in to the onion would short out any benefits provided.

  • Erik

    This is a hoax … I hope it was meant as such by you guys! The same people that gave you this video show you how to power a TV with an AAA Battery …

    Even if it did create enough power to charge the ipod, sticking the USB plug in to the onion would short out any benefits provided.

  • Erik

    This is a hoax … I hope it was meant as such by you guys! The same people that gave you this video show you how to power a TV with an AAA Battery …

    Even if it did create enough power to charge the ipod, sticking the USB plug in to the onion would short out any benefits provided.

  • Erik

    This is a hoax … I hope it was meant as such by you guys! The same people that gave you this video show you how to power a TV with an AAA Battery …

    Even if it did create enough power to charge the ipod, sticking the USB plug in to the onion would short out any benefits provided.

  • Nick

    …the only other problem is that it uses far more energy to create the energy drink and grow the onion than you get out of it to charge your iPod. Interesting experiment, though, that I have seen many times.

  • Nick

    …the only other problem is that it uses far more energy to create the energy drink and grow the onion than you get out of it to charge your iPod. Interesting experiment, though, that I have seen many times.

  • Nick

    …the only other problem is that it uses far more energy to create the energy drink and grow the onion than you get out of it to charge your iPod. Interesting experiment, though, that I have seen many times.

  • Scott_T

    Umm, I’m pretty sure this is a hoax.

  • Scott_T

    Umm, I’m pretty sure this is a hoax.

  • Scott_T

    Umm, I’m pretty sure this is a hoax.

  • tom

    it’s a hoax.. >_>

  • tom

    it’s a hoax.. >_>

  • billy bob

    to bad this gut has never seen mythbusters.

  • billy bob

    to bad this gut has never seen mythbusters.

  • billy bob

    to bad this gut has never seen mythbusters.

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