Dr. Ngalande’s Sugar and Yeast Power Generator

Over the weeks since the first post we did on Dr. Cedrick Ngalande’s inexpensive power source for Africa, we’ve been emailing back and forth about his invention. Yesterday, he sent me a link to a video of his device on YouTube.

“The rotor moves slowly most of the times but does pick up at certain intervals. This process continues for many hours. Since the rotor is quite heavy (and hence more inertia) a small geared DC motor can be connected to the rotor to generate power for cell phones, $100 laptops, and other things in Africa. People can leave this thing to charge their phones/$100 laptops overnight.”



“Basically we have two chambers on either end of the rotating (pivoted) rod. The arrangement of the chambers is such that on either side of the rod, one chamber sits on top of the other (this is important). At the beginning of this operation, I fill the bottom chamber on each side with a yeast sugar solution. Each bottom chamber is always locked under pressure by special valves. Due to pressure the solution starts moving from a bottom chamber into its respective top chamber. Note that by moving upwards, the fluid’s center of gravity shifts, resulting in a mass imbalance which causes the wobbling.

It should move slightly faster that what you see in the movie – it’s just that my values were a bit faulty and couldn’t hold all the pressure properly.”

Dr. Ngalande’s Sugar and Yeast Power Generator

Dr. Ngalande is looking for investors so that he can manufacture, market and sell this low-cost generator in Africa.

Author: Erik Hersman

Erik is the owner of White African, a blog about technology and Africa. He is the co-founder of Zangu, a new web and mobile phone application that he hopes will change communication in Africa. AfriGadget is another web project of his, not that he doesn't have enough of those already...

94 thoughts on “Dr. Ngalande’s Sugar and Yeast Power Generator”

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  8. I like the way this thing is built, but let me be honest: imho it will never work, i.e. there are much better, easier ways to obtain electrical energy from other environmentally sustainable (!) resources. Also, what about the production of CO2 from Yeast?
    DC motor: ppl are much better off connecting such a generator/dynamo to the wheels of a handcart (mkokoteni)….

    Still, it is very resourceful and a nice example to illustrate that smart ideas arent limited to “the West”.

  9. I agree with the response above. This is a novel machine without real potential to be a commercial power generator. A bit like the dipping bird that used to be in many chemist windows.

    The fast movement when the rotor reaches the horizontal is because liquid start to flow by gravity rather than by gas production. But this is why it rocks and the fast movement is short lived. All difficult for power generation. Investors need proof – so how much power can it produce per kg of sugar? otherwise lets calculate the mechanical energy from the gas production rates of the fermentation.

    I suspect stories like this, which turn out to not be feasible reduce the value of the site – can’t we publicise the already succesful ideas / businesses, waiting to be repeated throughout Africa and the world?

    What’s amazing, as I said once before regarding the solar powered donkey cart, is how many people spread the misinformation by linking and blogging, without any analysis.

  10. Dave, that might or might not be true. History has proven time and again that innovation and invention are generally overlooked and/or looked down upon at first. I can’t say whether or not this invention will be a success, the market will decide that.

    However, I can at least write about it. I highly doubt that writing stories of African inventors creating ingenious solutions for Africa will devalue this site. Whether it thrives or fails, it is exactly what this site is for.

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  12. Is this a joke? That video is like watching paint dry. Surely paying kids with candy (made from the sugar) to sit on an old bike with DC generator attached would produce much more energy?

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  15. I agree with Dave Harcourt’s comments (above). To generate power you need a constant rotation, which this doesn’t have either in the regular cycles or the long-term cycles. Clearly not viable as a power source. A nice secondary school science project but a doomed business plan.

    Often, when Africans invent gadgets like this, there’s a bit of paternalist “wow — isn’t this clever”. To the extent this permeates Afrigadget it diminishes it.

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  18. Most people commenting on this are surely not intelligent – certainly not engineers. What matters is not how fast that rotor moves, it is about how powerful or heavy it is. Because even if it moves slowly, if it is heavy enough you can connected small geared motor which will in turn fast and generate the electricity. Looks like most commentators on this forum have no clue about mechanics.

    This is a great project which may even find applications in the developed world

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  21. I do love the manner in which you have framed this particular issue and it does offer us a lot of fodder for consideration. However, because of what precisely I have witnessed, I just simply trust when the feed-back pile on that men and women stay on issue and not embark upon a tirade regarding some other news du jour. Still, thank you for this outstanding point and while I do not necessarily go along with the idea in totality, I regard the point of view.

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