Can these rocks really power light bulbs?


Some social media users are claiming they could be the answer to the continent's energy problems.

That's a big claim, so we've shown the footage to experts who've explained to us why such properties are highly unlikely.

It was shared by, among others, South African businessman Daniel Marven, who has over 800,000 followers. His tweet has now been viewed over two million times.

Can electricity be generated from rocks?

"I am very skeptical that these videos represent free electrical energy," says Prof Stuart Haszeldine of the School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh University.

"I have never seen anything geologically like this and suggest the rocks are connected to electrical power sources not included in the tightly framed video images."

He says the presence of what looks like a gloved hand in the lower part of the video showing the sparking rocks is very revealing.

This indicates, he suggests, that "current is flowing from the out-of-shot battery, through the rock being held with the glove (so the current doesn't flow through the gloved hand) and to earth via the second rock".

Metallic ores are good conductors of electricity, and the glove is an insulator that prevents the current from traveling through the person's body to the ground.

Turning to a video showing an illuminated LED bulb, Prof Haszeldine says that it is suspicious "because there are three hands (two people) in the demonstration".

"It looks to me that the current flows when two hands touch and the wires are mostly an illusion. So it may be just as interesting to get a close-up magician to look, and see if a trick of misdirection can be spotted."

A screenshot from the video shows a moment when the bulb remains lit even though one of the wires has become separated from the rock, a further indication that the rock has nothing to do with the circuit.

The real power behind Congo's minerals

DR Congo produces a wealth of valuable mineral ores, including coltan (columbite-tantalite).

When refined, coltan yields metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge, according to Dr Munira Raji of Plymouth University in the UK.

These properties make it invaluable in the manufacture of components used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics.

Dr. Raji says it's not possible to confirm whether any of the rocks shown in the videos are coltan without testing them in the geology lab, but even if they were, they cannot generate electricity on their own.

In that sense, she says, the claims that these rocks can produce electricity are wrong.

Dr. Ikenna Okonkwo, a geology lecturer at the University of Nigeria, has also taken a look at the videos for us. He says the rocks look more like zinc or lead ore. And these ores, he says, certainly don't have the ability to power a bulb.

"Perhaps [they could hold] static electricity of the kind that happens with some fabrics, but it won't keep an LED light bulb powered." The videos, says Dr. Okonkwo, do appear to be "some kind of trick".

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