A video that shows a mobile phone getting charged with a couple of onions is being widely shared on social media. Let’s fact-check the claim.
In the video accompanying the post, one can observe that the entire wire of the charger is not visible in the frame. Social media users have also expressed the same doubt in comments section. It is highly possible that two chargers were used in the video, the one on the lower side might have been connected to the power supply, and the other wire, which is on the top, connected to the onions, must be just lying out of the frame.
Let’s now understand if there is a scientific possibility of charging a mobile phone battery with onions, as shown in the video.
Batteries are devices that store chemical energy which can be later converted into electrical energy. A single battery can consist of one or more electrochemical or dry cells. The electrochemical cell generates electricity from chemical reactions.
It has two electrodes, an Anode and a Cathode, both made of two different metals. They are dipped into an electrolytic solution. Once a chemical reaction occurs in the cell, electrons start to flow from Anode to Cathode, and the conventional current flows in the opposite direction, i.e. from the Cathode to the Anode. This battery can be used to power up any device that is connected between the two electrodes.
Famous Internet Hoax in 2007
In 2007, a video titled ‘How to Charge an iPod using electrolytes and an onion’ was shared by a YouTube channel named ‘Household Hacker’. It was shown in the video that dipping an onion into an energy drink which has electrolytes in it and sticking up a USB connector to the onion and the other end of the connector to the iPad can charge it up. The video then generated a lot of interest and multiple people tried this. However, the video was a ‘parody’ which the channel itself clearly mentioned. In fact, the same channel published a similar parody again in 2016 as an April Fools joke.
This has been proven false in an episode of the famous Discovery channel show Mythbusters. The video explains that this can only work by the principle of a wet cell battery if at all it works. In the video of Mythbusters, an experiment was performed to check if the household hacker claims are valid, but no electricity passed through the onion. It is explained that even after soaking the onion, assuming it gets filled with electrolyte, two metal electrodes are necessary for the whole setup to work like a wet cell. Since only a USB is inserted, there is no chance of it working like a battery. Articles published on ABC News and The Guardian also said that charging a mobile phone with onion is impossible with that kind of setup.
Jon Edwards of the Royal Society of Chemistry explained to ‘The Guardian’ that “The science behind the idea isn’t bad – you can generate an electric current from vegetables – but the video is a hoax”. He explained that it can’t work because you need two electrodes to provide a reaction.
The same principle can be applied to the video in the current viral post. We can conclude that since there are no two electrodes, there is no chance of it working as a wet cell battery that can power a mobile phone.
In 2014, Nokia collaborated with artist Caleb Charland to demonstrate organic charging. He used 800 vegetables, the wet cell battery principle, and the famous high school experiment, potato cell, to charge the Nokia Mobile Phone. Here, he used two different metals to create this organic battery. The entire video can be watched here. To understand more about how vegetables and fruits can be used to charge mobile phones read this article.
To sum it up, one cannot charge your mobile phone using Onions in the way it’s shown in this video.