When living off the grid, or spending time in the great outdoors, efficiency is a top priority. Solar and wind power can be unreliable, depending on the type of storage available, and we all know that there’s only so much room in a backpack. Power generation devices with multiple uses are key to survival (and comfort) when electrical outlets are at a minimum.
Fire is easier to come by. All you need is wood and some matches, or perhaps an accelerant like propane or butane, and heat and light are yours for the taking. We can only imagine that it was around just such a campfire that the creative minds behind Power Practical, a Salt Lake City start-up, first envisioned the PowerPot, a portable thermoelectric generator that turns fire into electricity for your gadgets. Check it out:
The PowerPot uses thermoelectric power—the conversion of a temperature differential directly into electrical power—to generate electricity. Like solar power, thermoelectric generators operate with no moving parts, but they are powered by heat instead of light. This means the PowerPot is not dependent on sunlight and will work in any weather, at night, and indoors. All the PowerPot needs to generate power is heat and water. The temperature difference between the bottom side of the PowerPot—the part on the flame—and the inside of the PowerPot—containing, ideally, ice or snow, but water will do—will drive the production of electricity.
The PowerPot has a USB output and is available in two sizes, both of which are currently offered via a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. PowerPot V is the lighter backpacking model, capable of producing up to 5 watts of electricity and charging everyday handheld devices such as cell phones and MP3 players in 60-90 minutes. The PowerPot X is the size and weight of a typical kitchen cooking pot, with a 10-watt output.
In addition to making life easier for hikers and off-grid livers, PowerPot’s creators hope it will be a life-saving tool for those in developing countries as well. “There are over 200 million people in Africa that use cell phones but lack access to electricity. Some must walk over a mile and spend over 15 percent of their monthly income just to charge their phone,” said Caleb Light, chief financial officer for Power Practical. “Having widespread power generation available on a personal scale will allow individuals to shift their energy to increasing productivity through better lighting (education) and communication (business) in their communities.”