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PowerPot uses cooking heat to power campers' devices

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April 5, 2012

PowerPot is a line of camping cookware, that generates electricity using heat

PowerPot is a line of camping cookware, that generates electricity using heat

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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.

The 5-watt PowerPot V

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.

The power regulator in the PowerPot's USB cable incorporates an LED that illuminates when ...

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.

Source: PowerPot

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
13 Comments

MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmm GOOD idea BUT - unless you are actually in the polar regions, in a deep valley between mountains with basically NO sunlight, the idea of a small solar panel with direct charging during the day, or a set up with a decent battery - for night time charging....

Like how much power do you REALLY need? Is it portable or for a base station? etc...

A small 2W to 5W solar panel is highly portable, and a larger one say 20W+ is still very small and kind of light....

But they are way cheaper than this....

The pot bottom Peltier, is great BUT..... unless your desperate to make phone calls from an abyss or on the polar regions during a 6 month winter with NO WIND for 6 weeks while making dinner, I think there are a lot of cheaper, more portable and cost effective solutions than this.

Mr Stiffy
5th April, 2012 @ 05:02 pm PDT

The other thing... is that "It's not wrong" but the fact that people and cooking and hot spots and burning food and the fatal feature of boiling dry etc...

This is NOT a BAD device but it appears to be a fatal feature of the system - overheat the Peltier module by boiling the pot dry or causing a "burning layer" under the food inside the pot and "Pffffffftttttt" there goes your module.

This device is a GREAT device, but it's not a weakness, it's the realities of life and technical limitations of the units - in the real world of absent minded people and inattentative cooks.

I think it's a very smart use of the thermoelectric principle, but unless I was in a tent during a gale on the south pole for 2 weeks and nothing else to look at...

I could see myself ruining it in no time as I got distracted doing something else while dinner got cooked and small solar chargers ARE way more portable and far more cost effective, and they are "always on" (more or less) for most people, in most parts of the world, almost all day, every day.

Great for polar explorers, not that great an idea for the general population or the average campers or wilderness / remote location people.

Mr Stiffy
5th April, 2012 @ 05:31 pm PDT

Mr Stiffy, cute analysis, but have you ever actually used a trickle solar charging unit? They are freaking slow! I have a goal zero unit that cost nearly $200 and it will fully charge an iPhone but only if I'm willing to wait up to five hours. And only if its quite bright outside.

If this device can really charge a smartphone in less than 2 hours than it sets itself apart easily from crappy solar panels. I think it's best to actually try one out. Their kickstarter says it ships in early summer, I'm gonna try one out. Peace!

Riley Swenson
6th April, 2012 @ 08:07 am PDT

@Riley

We are not talking about "micro solar chargers" - a 10W panel is about 20cm x 20cm and it cost about $25. Unless your willing to be cooking 6 hours a day, every day, which is a LOT of gas, a 10W solar panel will give the same about of power over 9 hours - and it does that anyway with nothing running or costing anything AFTER the purchase.

At the most for 2 people with 2 or 3 hot meals a day you would not spend any more than about 20 or so minutes of cooking time with this - unless you want to be wasteful of gas.

And 30 minutes in the sun with a 10W panel will give the same amount of power as the 15 watt pott.

A smart phone taking 2 hours to charge???????

2 hours of cooking is a lot of wasted GAS and WATER, and unless your making coffee and cooking meals for about 20 people...

I'd rather take the solar panel out for 3 hours.

Mr Stiffy
7th April, 2012 @ 12:38 am PDT

Yes but Riley, speed isn't everything: you're wasting precious fuel if you run this thing for 2 hours. Say in a backpacking situation, where fuel is HEAVY, the solar option seems more efficient to me, as you can just slap the panel on top of your backpack all day. How long do you cook during a backpacking day, 3x20min maybe? Not enough.

I see this as a neat replacement pot (albeit on the heavy side) for having a little bit more juice on cloudy days, but not as a replacement for a solar panel.

Now, for an R-V or cabin without electricity where you intend to cook a lot, that's a different story. :)

EyeMars
7th April, 2012 @ 07:22 am PDT

I'm an advocate of using all power sources so I would definitely include this in my backpacking gear along with my solar panel, but I'm hoping this one will actually come to market and not keep us hanging on the line like the one from http://www.biolitestove.com/BioLite.html, although I do believe you might be able to order that one now? I like the over all simplicity of this set up! I hope to get one when ever it's available. :-)

Ed's note - our coverage is here: http://www.gizmag.com/biolite-low-emission-eco-camping-stove/14952/

mrhuckfin
7th April, 2012 @ 11:48 am PDT

I am not saying it's bad - it's quite a brilliant device.... except for the limitations of the pot boiling dry and burning it out....

I have no idea of the charging requirements of the modern smart phone... or a lot of other gear.

But using this to generate a lot of power or power for a long period, can only be done with a lot of fuel - and the only way to do that is make a lot of hot water for drinks, a lot of hot meals or lots of water for bathing with a bucket, and your operating from a base station....

So unless your in a valley close to the poles in mid winter... and you are cooking for a large group - this is going to be a pain in the arse to cart IT and all the all the fuel needed to give the power to charge a laptop and get about 2 hours run time out of that per day.

But even small devices, like cameras, phones, etc., for MOST people doing mostly hiking, in temperate climates, during the day time, a single 2 watt, or a 5 watt panel or 2 of them stuck on the top of a back pack, will keep an awful lot of things charged up and running - if only in stand by mode.

But are you going for a week end or a week or more away actually hiking with the need to be LIGHT, or are you parking the RV in the camping ground in the forest or do you have a heap of people to start carting you and your gear and your setting up a mobile office?

At the most, I'd make sure of my power requirements and I'd get or make up a small solar array that would fit on top of my hat or back pack - and that would keep my camera, my phone and a GPS charged up - but GPS is for wankers anyway.

I mean there are TONS of suppliers of great gear......

http://www.futurlec.com.au/Solar_Cell.jsp

http://www.voltaicsystems.com/2watt.shtml

2.0 Watt 6 Volt Panel

Approximate Charge Times from 2 Panels in Direct Sunlight*

Voltaic Battery Pack: 7 hours

iPhone or Smartphone via a Voltaic Battery Pack: 4-5 hours

Digital Camera: 4-8 hours

http://www.voltaicsystems.com/1dot3watt.shtml

Mr Stiffy
9th April, 2012 @ 08:39 pm PDT

mr stiffy,

have you ever actually been camping in your life? firstly, why must you be camping in a ravine in the arctic? when you camp it is pretty commonplace to cook at night, either backpacking or not. hike during the day and cook dinner after the sun sets. Also, not saying this for everyone, but when you camp you don't bring laptops and many devices camping. You may have a small music player for hiking or a phone for emergencies, not to play games on and text constantly. that also means that your devices shouldn't be fully drained every day, so you may not need a full charge, maybe just the 20 minutes it takes to cook a meal. I think this would be an alternative or a supplement to a solar panel if you did need more power. Another small point, but a when you are cooking it is very rare that you would not be paying attention or leave your fire unattended. that just isn't smart. If you do need power for your multitude of devices maybe you should think of a larger solution or just plug it into your RV that you drove there in.

jcarter
10th April, 2012 @ 10:46 am PDT

I was think roughly along the same lines as mrhuckfin and wonder if you could you the BioLite with these pots, then fuel wouldn't be as much as an issue. Although I would still have a photovoltaic solar panel as it also has the benefit of being easily storable, in a car battery, for example

Paul Russell
14th April, 2012 @ 09:20 pm PDT

@jcarter - yeah you are sort of right.

15W is sort of LOTS of power and it's NOT very much power, depending on how you look at it - which means HOW much power you need to make, how LONG will it take to make it, and how much FUEL will you need to create that much power, and how long are you going away camping for?

And are we just carrying a few electronics, for emergency use and perhaps a little entertainment or are we running a mobile office?

At the bare bones end of the power needs, a small solar panel say 6V 2W, at like $10 on the top of the back pack, would be more than enough to keep my phone and a few other things charged up if it was only for charging it up, and the devices were only switched on for 5 minutes of use per day, just to check the missed calls and earthy position etc.

So that saves me about $190.

For the emergency power supply at home - a 20W solar panel is very cheap and that can keep any battery charged, a few LED lights running and some electronics going as well.

Given that the small camping model makes 5W, the larger one makes 10W and the big pot makes 15W.

This is NOT a lot of power to start off with, and a small solar panel - even a really small one, at 6V 2W, will on an average day, produce power for 6 to 8 hours, more if it's stuck in a sunny position and given a little bit of sun tracking.

1.5 hours of solar panel will give the same amount of power as running the 5W pot on the stove for 1 hour.

The sun is free and almost always on all day every day.

If I was in the polar regions, and had to cook for say 10 or 20 people, in rotating shifts, two of the bigger pots might be a really great thing.

But for lighting, I'd be putting a hot plate over a gas mantle lamp, and I could get all my cooking done and about 200W of light at the same time, for the same amount of fuel.

Or I could put one of these pots over a gas mantle lantern and get 200W of light, 15W of electricity and cook the meals.

There is also the issue of pure efficiency that the thermo electric system is very low, the pure electrical ratio of hydrogen / carbon combination with oxygen, vs what you can get from a fuel cell, what you can get from a infernal combustion engine / generator and what you can get from the thermo electric couple......

If I were to only be getting power from it, only while I was cooking.... 5W for 20 minutes... hello.

The solar cells run all day (more or less).

These pots are a great design and a wonderful device - no doubt about it.

But I'd rather be making calculated decisions, on the time, resources, and the weight etc., that comes with all the available options.

It's like planning a 5 day hike across the desert. Do we leave it up to me or to "fun time" party boy.

I'd be finding out in advance all the water stops, best times to travel in the day temperature wise, and all that, and I'd be carrying beef jerky and all the necessary water 50% for each leg of the trip... (if the information was reliable about the water stops).

But party boy brings along ONE case of sugary coke and a bag of sweets.

So I think it's best to define the nature of the journey, the resources available for that journey and then see if this device best fits the needs for that journey, while this is an excellent option, it may in fact not be the best option and it may in fact not be the best option in the light of the circumstances.

Am I going to fit out an entire scout group with them? 20 people x $200 per pot, per person = $4000 or do I get 20 people, 20 lots of solar cells for $10 each coming to $200 all up?

If the trip is going to be for 1 week per year.... and that is the only time the pots are going to be used?????

The pots are wonderful devices - but the purchase of them, has to be done on rational calculated grounds - pencil to paper to figure out the average power requirements, location, costs, supporting logistics (i.e. how much fuel) of ALL the available power sources, instead of "Oh that is a nice idea - I must have one" mind set.

If I was in a polar region, and the only fuel was in 200 liter drums and there was no wind generator and or it was wise to have multiple redundancies in the power supply - yes I would have them - absolutely.

Regular camping for 3 - 5 days away in a temperate climate, several times a year - just to top up the mobile phone and an external speaker / audio / music - no way, the $10 solar cell would get the job.

Mr Stiffy
16th April, 2012 @ 09:38 am PDT

The BioLite stove has the best use of thermoelectric by running a fan to increase the efficiency of burn to decrease fuel consumption by half. And it recharges devices. Perhaps the PowerPot could be used with it if circumstances prevented solar generation. Or just for fun if money did not mater.

voluntaryist
22nd April, 2012 @ 03:28 am PDT

This would be a really good backup when there is no sun available for your portable solar usb chargers.

Ryan Brown
23rd April, 2012 @ 08:35 pm PDT

I can see this being very useful in our hunting cabin. set it on the wood burning stove, and keep it fed with a float valve, from a cistern. Free power from waste heat. Charge the 12vt batteries and use an inverter if AC is needed, or simply runs lights from 12vt DC lamps. Cost is a little high, but I may look for one when they hit the market.

kellory
29th April, 2012 @ 08:13 pm PDT
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