Potato Powered mp3 Player – Not!

Sweet potato batteryFed up with using up so many batteries? Rechargeables giving you poor mileage? Then why not try a couple of sweet potatoes instead.

In this “video tutorial”, you’ll learn how to use a couple of galvanized (zinc coated) nails, some bare copper wire, a pair of mini crocodile clips, AND two sweet potatoes, to power up your mp3 player with not a conventional battery in sight. Great video and the music’s sweet too.

The Hole – video powered by Metacafe

This appliance is, of course, closely related to the lemon battery (or more formally lemon cell) familiar to anyone who’s searched for a high school science project. Two different metallic objects dipped into a conduction solution (an electrolyte) will produce an electrochemical reaction the byproduct of which is electricity. A single lemon is usually enough to illuminate a flashlight bulb, but two sweet potatoes are apparently required for an mp3 player. Yes, it reduces the portability of your player, but just think…no more buying batteries! Of course, things might get a bit smelly as those sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) start to go off.

23 thoughts on “Potato Powered mp3 Player – Not!”

  1. Thanks to you people for posting that it wont work…I knew right away but it is encouraging to see that others agree.

  2. Nick, of course it doesn’t work. Look at the “circuit”, how could it? It’s a spoof? You could use potatoes to produce an electric current if you wired it up properly, but it would produce only a very small current certainly not enough to power an mp3 player. If you read my post you will see the clues. But, the title is the biggest clue, surely – “Potato Powered mp3 Player – Not!”

  3. I forgot to add a comment to this to let readers know that I posted a more legitimate fruity battery item recently – Lemon Battery. Anyone given it a try and had success, leave a comment to let us know? Have you used anything more exotic than a lemon to generate an electrical current?


  4. How will this work? My son is trying to do this for a science project and it’s not working. We’ve tried it the above way and by linking both sweet potatoes together and nothing. I’ve also tried it with 3 potatoes linked together and again nothing. Can anyone help? He needs this ASAP. Thanks David

  5. I saw a very similar video showing how to charge an iPod with an onion. It was brilliantly done but basically amounted to shoving the USB cable into the onion. There were lots of follow-ups showing how this could not possibly work and that the voltage you get from such an act is negligible.


  6. It’s probably possible that you could boot up the mp3 player chip and screen with 0.8V but almost certainly couldn’t drive a couple of speakers.

  7. The whole thing is a***fake*** !!! As David Bradley already said on Feb 5 2007 , to get even a minimum chance, you had to put both the copper and the zinc in the same potato. You would get a voltage of about 0.8V. Much to little even to operate a mp3-player that is usually driven by a single battery with 1.5V. Besides this fact, the current that this potato-battery provides is much too low to operate a player. To double the voltage, you could work with two potatoes, each equipped with one copper and one zinc. The copper from one potato would then be connected to the zinc from the other one. this would give around 1.5V.
    Even then, the problem with the low current remains. If this wasn’t enough, to pretend to operate two speakers with the same – non-working! – battery is really ridiculous.
    The whole thing has the potential to become one of the most stupid internet-fakes I’ve ever heard.
    Here in Germany the science-magazine of the German TV has this thing on his internet-page. This only shows, that tv-makers are the same bunch of stupids everywhere in the world.

  8. Because of the repeated mention of the “word” mp3 in this post, it gets quite a significant proportion of the comment spam on sciencebase.com. 99.999% of it is picked up by our spam filters and dumped, but one such spam comment almost slipped through. Said comment was pointing to a site calling itself googlemp3. It exists as of May 5, but I suspect site registrant Duanne J will receive a note from Google’s lawyers any day now, unless of course he works for Google, in which case Google itself will get a call from the RIAA.

  9. You don’t even need a single lemon. The lemon in the standard high-school demo is really just there for dramatic effect – light up a bulb with a lemon, who’s going to forget that in a hurry. All you really need is a conducting solution into which to place the two electrodes. It is the difference in relative energy of the metals that provides the potential gradient, the electrolyte simply acts as a medium for the transfer of electrons to complete a circuit that can do work. You would still be able to light the bulb with half, quarter, eighth or smaller chunk of lemon so long as you could insert the electrodes without them coming into contact with each other.

    As was mentioned earlier this sweet potato demonstration is a spoof. It won’t work with one, two or even a million potatoes wired up like this. Wire it up properly though and the conducting solution within a single yam would be enough to carry the current and power the mp3 player.

  10. A single lemon is usually enough to illuminate a flashlight bulb, but two sweet potatoes are apparently required for an mp3 player. Yes, it reduces the portability of your player, but just think…no more buying batteries! Of course, things might get a bit smelly as those sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) start to go off…

  11. Like I said in an earlier comment, you have to use the zinc-coated nail and the copper wires as the electrodes. Each embedded a conducting media (whether a lemon, or electrolyte solution. Here’s another video showing that you can get just over one volt from a single battery. So you might need one and a half to power your mp3 player. Actually that’s also a little joke, one and a half lemons would give you just over two volts, the size of lemon is irrelevant, it’s the copper and zinc that matter.

  12. me the fool tryed to do this for my 11 year old son of course it did not work.is there any other way it will work to power a mp3 player getting 1.6 on my voltmeter when they are wired the proper way but still wont power the mp3 the mp3 takes 1 aaa can anyone help with this project
    Father seek of help

  13. Thank goodness, someone has finally spotted the con. This approach to power generation is of course a conjuring trick. There is no circuit. So, how could it possibly power up the mp3 player. To stand a chance of it working, would be to insert the copper wire directly into the potato and connect it to one battery terminal and the other terminal would lead to the zinc-coated nail embedded in the *same* potato. electricity could then flow through the electrolytic solution (the salty contents of the potato) closing the circuit. Whether or not this kind of electrochemical cell would generate enough power to run the mp3 player (which usually requires 2 AA batteries, 3 volts, in other words) and the speakers is a different matter…

  14. Of course the zinc gets used up which costs loads of energy to produce and the sweet potato is somewhat irrelevant (any conductive solution would work as well) but apart from that it’s solid science.

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