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Off-Grid Power Generator (in form of Cooking Pot)

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One evening last week I charged my iPhone by boiling a pot of water. A camp stove aided in the process as well as a cable and an aluminum cooking pot.

No, this was not a science experiment with my kids. A new product from a Utah startup company, the PowerPot, uses heat from a fire to make electricity.

The PowerPot

You cook over an open flame, be it with the pot set on a camp stove or on a small fire built with logs. A mechanism inside the base of the PowerPot transforms heat to usable electricity via an electromagnetic reaction.

In my test this past week, the little pot worked right away. Power icon bars on my phone began dancing almost immediately after plugging into the PowerPot.

A cable by the pot handle provided the hook-up, and as long as a flame licked the pot base my phone sucked in the juice.

Bottom of pot: Plate produces power via an electromagnetic reaction

Cameras, GPS devices, handheld radios, phones, and other devices will mate with the PowerPot. It comes with a universal cable and adapters to connect to common gadgets you might bring into the woods.

The PowerPot is a simple, solid product in the hand. It’s made of anodized aluminum and has capacity to heat about 45 liquid ounces of water. It weighs less than a pound (about 12 ounces) in a backpack hiking down the trail.

The pot is similar in concept to the BioLite stove, which we wrote about earlier this year, in that each is a cooking-oriented product that has the side benefit of generating power.

But the two products are different — the BioLite requires wood burning in its metal barrel to make electricity; you then place a normal cooking pot on top of it if you want water heated up.

USB cable plugs into PowerPot

In contrast, the PowerPot requires a flame from another device (a camp stove) or from heat on an open fire. Both these products produce electricity from flame and heat, though by varying means.

On the PowerPot, I had concern with the rubberized cables so close to an open flame. But the company took steps in the design to make it right — the cables have a heat-resistant silicone fiberglass protective layer.

Inside the pot

The PowerPot costs $149. For that you get electricity and hot water, too. But it is not made for cooking soup, stew, or food — hot water is its main purpose.

You can melt snow or ice in the pot to make water on winter camping trips. The company touts this as actually producing more power output as the temp difference is greater with snow and ice, perpetuating the electromagnetic reaction.

Portable solar power panels or simply extra batteries in the pack are other options for a backcountry recharge. But with the PowerPot you get an on-demand plug for recharging devices, day or night, rain or shine.

Your kids might enjoy it as a science experiment, to boot.

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