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VOTO charges phones and provides light using cooking fires


April 30, 2013

The VOTO fuel-cell charger gets power from cooking fires

The VOTO fuel-cell charger gets power from cooking fires

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Just because someone is getting close to nature doesn't necessarily mean they need to ditch their smartphone. However, keeping a device charged while in the great outdoors is not always the easiest thing to do. After all, those trees don't come equipped with power outlets. We've already seen the BioLite stove that generates its own power. A new product called VOTO performs a similar function, but with any cooking fire.

The device functions via a fire-activated fuel cell. The end with the fuel cell is placed under the fire with the charcoal, and the end with the connected battery sticks out from the top. Because the device holds power on its own, users can charge it up while cooking and then connect their devices to it when it's safely away from the fire.

According to Point Source Power, the VOTO's 4000 mAh battery can receive a full charge in two cooking sessions, but that will obviously vary depending on the situation.

In addition to the phone-charging portion of the device, the VOTO also includes an LED light that receives its power through the same means. The LED puts out 25 lumens, which should be quite sufficient for most individuals' needs. When fully charged, the LED is able to provide up to 30 hours of light.

The creators of the VOTO have this product aimed at two very different markets. First, there's the developed world, where campers will gladly welcome something to keep their devices charged while in the wilderness. Second, there's the developing world, where electricity is not readily available, but cooking fires are commonplace.

The video below features Point Source Power's CEO Craig Jacobson explaining the device.

Source: Point Source Power via Popular Science

Point Source Power from LAUNCH on Vimeo.

About the Author
Dave LeClair Dave is an avid follower of all things mobile, gaming, and any kind of new technology he can get his hands on. Ever since he first played an NES as a child, he's been an absolute tech and gaming junkie. All articles by Dave LeClair

Should be a great help for developing countries where any source of power for rechargeable lighting is appreciated. Being separate from the fire itself makes it probably more versatile than the stoves, although I seem to remember that the stove's power unit came with a lead to charge, say, a phone or battery light so they can be used away from the immediate area as well.

The Skud

I am not sold on the life of fuelcells especially when there is a better solution. I would like to know that you could suspend it over the chimney of a kerosene lamp. http://www.gizmag.com/epiphany-one-puck-phone-charger/26163/


There must be 1000 of applications for this tech upscaled to an industrial level... Factories produce tonnes of heat, and a % of that could obviously be used to generate electricity with this.


This is a neat little device and another example of how the appropriate use of technology can change the world. I must admit however that it it so very odd to consider this odd combination of something as ancient as a cooking fire and as modern as a fuel cell to create power.

It points to the huge cultural differences which exist between the developed and developing world and that curious conundrum of people having cell phones in locations where they have no electricity. The whole thing feels like a Flintstone cartoon where they have cars, but have to power them using their feet.

Marvin Double

Someone set me straight. Why is this gadget being called a fuel cell? Demonstration looks like a super huge mind blowingly efficient THERMOCOUPLE to me. Or is it just a mangling of language for marketing reasons?

Dave B13

Low cost renewable bio-mass fuel cell cards... you have too buy, or make? these are shown being added to the heat end of this device.


They have cell phones, & a provider plan, yet no means to charge the phones? Something missing here in the logistics, & end user's priorities are misaligned somehow? like maybe clean drinking water, food, oh and fuel for the fire...

Bob Flint

It's an upside down Peltier or something similar. Calling it a "fuel cell" is quite a cheat when the chemical reaction (aka burning wood) is entirely outside of the gadget. You could make the thing run by concentrating sunlight on it, try that on a fuel cell. On the good side they have for sale a usable device, ahh What's the price?

http://tegpower.com/ Uhh these guys sell many versions depending on application.

http://www.mpoweruk.com/thermoelectricity.htm "... More recently the possibility of using thermocouple arrays in automotive applications to recover waste heat from engine exhaust gases is being investigated. With an exhaust gas temperature of 250°C and a coolant temperature of 50°C, power outputs of over 300 Watts have been achieved but this drops to 150 Watts when the coolant temperature increases to 90° C "

Well this seems different from above, not totaly shure: http://www.gizmag.com/alloy-converts-heat-into-electricity/19025/ June 24, 2011 --University of Minnesota "... The multiferroic alloy, with the catchy name Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10, was created by combining its various elements at the atomic level. Multiferroic materials are known for having unique elastic, magnetic and electric properties, and in the case of this alloy, that takes a form of an usual phase change. When heated, the non-magnetic solid material suddenly becomes a strongly magnetic solid. ..."


Dave B13

DOH!!! I thought obfuscating hucksterism was going on. Wow, was I wrong. Pretty brilliant People. Check them out by plugging thier names into Google patents. I'll go soak my head in a bucket of slime now. I'm not fit to kiss the ground they've tread on. C. Michael Tucker P. Craig Jacobson THEN go to their page from the hypertext above or: http://www.pointsourcepower.com I don't see any way to purchase any of their products, but I do see they are looking for distributors.

Dave B13

It is a fuelcell but to function it needs to be very hot and it appears to use carbon as the fuel.

re; Marvin Double

There are several reasons (some that work together) that cellphones work in third world countries. 1. The rulers, and economic elite like having all the modern conveniences. 2. Tourists (meaning cash flow to the local rich) like having phone service. 3. The cellphone infrastructure is relatively cheap, and fortifiable. The copper wire for land-line phones is stolen all the time. It costs less to use armed guards to protect the cell towers than to keep land-lines in service.

Also since there are cellphones it is of great advantage to have a phone. A man with a phone can sell his goods or services in a much larger market. A fisherman from Kenya can catch a high value fish and auction it to the big hotels and other expensive restaurants while still at sea and deliver it to the purchaser as soon as he makes port. The difference in value that the few hours difference in freshness, and not having to sell through a middleman fish market makes the fisherman more money, with the added benefit that that the rest of the catch hits the market, and poor peoples plate fresher. Also at least three fishermen were rescued after making cellphone distress calls.


I'd like to see three things: 1. The patent holders call their devices something other than fuel cells. For instance: New Technology Thermoelectric Generators NTTEG or Inovative Seebeck Modules ISMs or something related to the novel materials, arrangement or fabrication methods they use. 2. Some A to B comparison with the previously existing Thermoelectric Generators with some numbers, devices used in similar conditions for comparisons, that would reflect likely user experiences. 3. On on-line place that sells their devices and uses some secure credit card arrangement.

Dave B13

Wonderful invention...You really help the world especially the 3rd.Great idea! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Florent Ambroise Cocou M
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