Evaluating Information: Charge your iPod with an onion

Use What Where or Not at All

Can you charge an iPod using electrolytes and an onion?

This video produced by the HouseholdHacker.com website describes how to charge an iPod with an electrolyte solution and an onion. The provided directions instruct prodding a hole into the Gatorade-soaked onion and simply pushing the USB adapter of your iPod’s power cable into the onion. According to the makers of the video, your iPod will power up and begin charging. Not sure what to make of this video? Is it true, or false?

Media articles:

Determining the veracity of the claim

With over 10 million views to date, before you plug your USB adapter into an onion and end up with a sticky USB, it is worthwhile considering whether the video is a hoax. The most interesting bit is when, according to instructions, the USB adapter gets directly inserted into the Gatorade-soaked onion. Would this really charge and power up an iPod?

Let's apply a set of criteria for evaluating information to determine how truthful this claim might be:


The Household Hacker is a YouTube channel that hosts multiple ‘how-to-do’ videos and various ‘hacks’ or quick solutions to common everyday problems. The author’s credentials have not been provided. The reassuring narrator guides the viewers through presumably believable experiments. Reading the user comments on its YouTube channel, there are numerous complaints from viewers who tried the experiments and failed to get the desired results.


According to the HouseHold Hacker’s Facebook ‘About’ page, “Whether for fun or practicality; we want you to think about everything you read, hear and even see with your own eyes. You must challenge, test and innovate in every way you can think of.” This clearly implies the posted video might be a joke. Also, along with the ‘disclaimer’ seen below the video, there is a note alerting that the video is a parody.


The video has been published in Nov 2007. Currency is very important as your lecturer/instructor may require you to use sources published within the last five or ten years of publication. However, in certain circumstances, older sources may be acceptable, such as when they are seminal or classic.


Be critical and evaluate the source based on its relevance by asking the question 'is the information and content of the video appropriate as a scholarly source?' 


Contrast the above video with the following one: 

This is the real, technology-based, art installation and experiment involving 800 apples and potatoes that actually managed to charge a single Nokia Lumia 930 mobile phone. The apples and potatoes were connected with hundreds of galvanised nails and lengths of copper fitted on a wireless mat. The artist was able to increase the power output enough so that the strange contraption could actually charge a mobile phone creating an electrical current of an average 20mA and around six volts.

The science behind the idea of charging smartphones with a fruit or vegetable through an electrochemical process is not implausible as it is indeed possible to generate an electric current from fruit and vegetables using an electrochemical device. Electrochemical cells, also called batteries, require three things to work: two electrodes and one electrolyte. For example, the zinc nail and copper coin (two electrodes) immersed in an electrolyte solution (lemon juice) in the lemon battery experiment provide a reaction and a reason for an electric current to flow.

The verdict

It is possible to charge your smartphone with fruits and vegetables but only through an electrochemical cell type of a device. Even if this is true, also consider if perhaps more than one humble piece of a fruit or vegetable is needed to get the desired power output.

As the video is clearly misleading, as some Internet users have discovered for themselves after trying the experiment and failing to get the desired results, what would be the reasons for creating such a deceptive video? In this case, as stated in the Household Hacker Facebook page, their purpose is to, whether for fun or practicality, influence the human mind to follow up things that may have a practical value to humankind and society in general, by making people think about things they read, hear and see with their own eyes. Thus, even if it is fake, the video served as an impetus to learn more about batteries.

"Charging an iPod using electrolytes and an onion" video is fake, but how about the one below?