Thermoelectric materials are able to generate an electrical current, via a temperature gradient within themselves. If thermoelectric fabric were used to make a jacket, for instance, the temperature difference between that garment’s cool exterior and warm interior might be enough to charge devices carried in its pockets. A current could also be generated by a vehicle’s thermoelectric exhaust pipe, due to its hot interior and the cool air surrounding it. Now, entrepreneurs David Toledo and Paul Slusser have developed a line of thermoelectric cooking pots, that use the heat of a fire to generate electricity when camping.
The product, known as the PowerPot, currently comes in two sizes. Both of them incorporate a fireproof base made from thermoelectric material. When filled with water and placed over the flame of a campfire or gas stove, the temperature difference between the top and bottom of that base creates a current. That current is carried by an attached flame-resistant USB cable, that can be used to charge or run the user’s devices. Integrated into the cable is a waterproof power regulator, with a built-in LED that illuminates when a current is present.
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The smaller model, the 5-watt PowerPot V, is intended more for backpackers. It’s made from hard-anodized aluminum, has folding rubberized handles, and weighs about 12 ounces (340 g). The larger 10-watt PowerPot X holds two quarts (1.9 L) of liquid, and is designed more as a kitchen-style cooking pot, for use on gas ranges. Also in the works is the 15-watt one-gallon (3.8 L) PowerPot XV.
All of the models have sealed electronics, no moving parts, and are said to produce enough electricity to power at least two small devices (such as smartphones, mp3 players or LED lights) at once. A full charge should be possible in 60 to 90 minutes, in the case of the V. The X model will be required for larger devices such as tablets, while the XV could perhaps even power the lighting system of a small home.
To that end, Toledo and Slusser are hoping that it could see use in developing nations, where a lack of infrastructure leaves many households in the dark (or using hazardous kerosene lanterns) at night. They also think that it would be a good emergency preparedness item for First World homes, to act as a generator in the event of a power outage.
The inventors are currently raising funds on Kickstarter, to take the PowerPot into commercial-scale production. A pledge of US$125 will get you a PowerPot V, while $199 will get you the X – when and if the funding goal is met.
More information is available in the pitch video below.