Charging Phones With Fire

Written by Kate Winter on . Posted in Gadgets, Science, Technology


Image Credit: SF Examiner

You may remember Astounde covering the PowerPot a few months back.

Now, a company called Point Source Power is similarly introducing a mechanism for obtaining energy for a flashlight or phone from the caveman’s best friend.

The Voto

Voto is essentially a highly efficient miniature fuel cell that can power pretty much whatever you need: batteries, lights, or a phone, when placed in a cooking stove.

Voto can run using any type of biomass (biological material derived from a recently living organism), though charcoal is used in the example.

Fuel Cells 2.0

Though fuel cells have been around for a while, they’ve generally not been very cost effective due to their expensive and fragile ceramic parts. “It’s all about the cost and whether it can be cheap enough and rugged enough,” says project mastermind Craig Jacobson.

Voto uses a “rugged and inexpensive” spin on the technology; it contains fuel cell “cards” which are smaller and flatter than their ancestors. Carbon monoxide combines with oxygen ions and the “cards” to create electricity, CO2 and steam.


“People spend billions of dollars every year on kerosene lighting. They buy it every day and there really aren’t good alternatives,” says Jacobson.

Point Source Power wants to bring that ability to the homes of the underprivleged. They anticipate that the “cards” on the Voto will wear out after 3-4 months due to the extreme duress created by the 700-800 degree Fahrenheit temps. The team has anticipated this issue, and hopes to be able to price the Voto where people can still save a significant chunk of change with the added convenience.

The Future

Point Source Power is currently obtaining funding to execute their plans for Voto, which includes distribution of the five-watt model in Kenya in the second half of this year.

They intend to sell Voto as a home charger for cell phones and kerosene replacement down the road as well.

Point Source Power via MIT



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