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Power Technology

Charge Your Mobile Device With Fire 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the burn-it-up dept.
Iddo Genuth writes "If you love to go on camping trips and want to charge your mobile phone, tablet or even camera there is a new solution on the way which can do that anywhere day or night and all you need to do is light a little fire and have a few drops of water. The FlameStower efficiently captures excess heat from a gas burner or campfire to charge almost any USB-powered device: cell phones, GPS units and even cameras by using the thermal deferential between the fire and water and the whole thing is already collecting money on Kickstarter (and if you are really handy you can even make a DIY version yourself)."
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Charge Your Mobile Device With Fire

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  • mmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:07PM (#45021339)

    Guessing it uses the peltier effect. Well, I see three problems here, which is probably why it's on Kickstarter and not in a t-mobile store. First, if you overheat it, your goose is cooked. Second, it looks like the solution to the overheating problem is to use water. Third... fire + water + electronics generally end badly. Usually because water causes fire which kills electronics, but really, any combination of the three usually ends badly.

    Just buy a solar panel like a normal person; Don't risk it tipping over and killing your (likely) only means of communication in the wilderness. And while you're at it... buy a shortwave radio. They're cheap, low power, have long range, and you can easily run/charge them with a hand crank in minutes. And unlike a cell phone... many models are made to be waterproof and the simplicity of the design means they likely could even survive an EMP from a nuclear weapon. I'd rather have one of those in my "oh shit" bag than some complex contraption like this...

    • Re:mmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:18PM (#45021411)

      Yes but less you forget, fire + water+ electronics + earth + wind + heart equals Captain Planet!

      • by lxs (131946)

        Oh but I do remember Earth Wind and Fire. Especially the twenty-first night of September. We were dancing the night awaaaaay...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You can get a battery the size of a wallet that will recharge the average smartphone half a dozen times with ease. I have one, it's great. I mean, why the fuck would you need to charge your smartphone half a dozen times when camping, wouldn't you be missing the point of something at that point?

      * As for those who are bound to wonder why you would even have it, for some people it's their only camera (I don't understand these people) and fuck you, that's why. I like my phone.

      • Although you're posting as AC, you make a decent point to which I would like to see a riposte.

        Have you ever climbed Denali or Everest or Chimborazo? I can bet that the folks who do today will love having longer-term charging power.

        Looking at it, I bet it weighs 4 or 5 oz. I've not attempted any of the mountains I've mentioned, but I like outdoors and live in Alaska. I've trekked for as long as three weeks and don't trust *phones nor GPS devices for trips like that, but wouldn't mind one for a backup. Th

        • oops. I just noticed that RobinEggs [slashdot.org] says that it weighs 7 oz. I still view this as a favorable weight, given that I can put it over the fire of my choice.
        • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @05:33AM (#45023135) Homepage

          Although you're posting as AC, you make a decent point to which I would like to see a riposte.

          Have you ever climbed Denali or Everest or Chimborazo? I can bet that the folks who do today will love having longer-term charging power.

          The folks who do it today have things like this: http://www.amazon.com/Innovative-Digital-Hand-Crank-Emergency-Charger/dp/B0089QB2KY/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_0_2 [amazon.com]

          They're more reliable than fire in a strong wind (strong winds occasionally happen on Everest, and I should know, I've climbed it 16 times).

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Do they? If you actually did climb Everest, you should no that energy is precious and calories are important. A device that requires you to manually crank takes calories. How would you wind that while wearing gloves?

            and Everest is a cake walk today. IT about 1 step removed from just selling tickets and having a guid on hand to take you to the next camp. Yawn.

          • 16 times? Interesting. So you're a sherpa then? Because Dave Hahn [wikipedia.org] currently holds the record for the most ascents of Everest by a westerner, and he's only done it 14 times. Heck, at 16 ascents you must be a pretty famous sherpa at well, as the record for most ever ascents by anyone is only 21.
        • Except you can't actually call anybody from the world's tallest mountains...they don't have a cell tower on Everest, do they?

    • And while you're at it... buy a shortwave radio. They're cheap, low power, have long range, and you can easily run/charge them with a hand crank in minutes.

      ::Yawn:: Where's my coffee? Yep, I catch anyone using my percolator firewood for their cell, we're going to have problems. Oh, hey, Genius: The sun's not up, so use the handcrank dynamo for the phone. Derp. Fuck it, I'm going back to bed, this is dumb. Wake me when the government reboots.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        When you do use that firewood, you use it's 'waste' heat. It's not coffee OR charging , its coffee AND charging.

    • by mestar (121800)

      "...water causes fire..."

      Those firemen bastards!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Kickstarter and not in a t-mobile store"
      it's on Kickstarter becasue they need funding before going into production.
      Do you think their is a production fairy that just waves her wand and you shit it made?

      ". First, if you overheat it, your goose is cooked."
      So? that's true if you misuse pretty much any product

      "Second, it looks like the solution to the overheating problem is to use water."
      Yes, like every other way to generate electricity

      "Third... fire + water + electronics generally end badly. "
      No it doesn't.

      "I

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Guessing it uses the peltier effect.

      Looking at the photo, I can't see any other way it would work. But I'd rather see a generator powered by a Stirling engine. I don't know why they're not on the market. Maybe this is more dependable because there are no moving parts?

      Third... fire + water + electronics generally end badly.

      Well, fire and water usually results only in wet unlit fuel (depending on the fuel), and it looks like there's only maybe a cup of water in the thing, and your device is nowhere near the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:08PM (#45021345)

    There's at least one similar product out that has been available for well over a year: BioLite Camp Stove - http://www.mec.ca/product/5031-449/biolite-campstove/?f=10&q=USB%2Bstove

    • by Dan East (318230)

      I was also going to point out the BioLite stove (direct link to the product on their site [biolitestove.com]). I see a couple advantages of the BioLite already. It doesn't consume / require water, and can operate off of a wide variety of fuels (little sticks and leaves and stuff) since the combustion takes place in its own combustion chamber. The Biolite appears to operate off a smaller heat source (and thus less fuel) because of the efficiency of burning the fuel in a controlled manner, instead of merely sticking it over f

      • by geekoid (135745)

        OTOH, I can't quite bring myself to buy something from a site that says:
        "Forget the fuel. " right next to some fire wood.

        Hello?

    • by drgould (24404)

      There's also the PowerPot [thepowerpot.com].

    • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @12:20AM (#45022289)
      The BioLite is 2 lbs 1 oz; the FlameStower is 7 oz. Using most canister stoves, you could carry stove, over a week of fuel, and the FlameStower for 8oz less than the BioLite.

      You can use the Flamestower where you're not allowed to gather fuel, when there's nothing to burn, or when everything is too wet to burn. One or more of those things is true in tons of national parks, wetlands, deserts, mountains, etc.

      The FlameStower is starting at $80 and could still come down; the BioLite is $129.

      I've seen at least 3 posts that just said: "Why, you could just get a BioLite?", 1 that pointed out the advantages of the BioLite, and none that pointed out advantages of the FlameStower.

      I'm quite disappointed that a group of people who laud critical thinking and informed opinion are so unimaginative about this device's usefulness, and speak as if quite uninformed about the practical necessities of backpacking / survival equipment.
      • You are spot on. I made a close guess on the weight above, and didn't make the point quite as well as you do. Where weight counts, when you're not living out of the house or the car, FlameStower is much better than BioLite. Weight is precisely why I've not already bought a BioLite.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          Lets not forget the BioLite is also your stove. ANd it's designed to use local fuel(sticks and what not)

      • It exists in production and is available for purchase.
      • The PowerPot [thepowerpot.com] is a bit heavier than the FlameStower (12 oz) and almost twice as expensive ($150), but otherwise it appears to have the same or better advantages over the BioLite as the FlameStower and is already commercially available. It's only 30% the weight of the BioLite and can supply a standard full-rate smartphone charge (5W, vs. FlameStower's 2W) over USB from any external heat source. You can even boil water or cook with it while it's generating electricity, which addresses concerns about using up c

    • by DrXym (126579)
      I think Biolite looks like a more practical solution - provided someone is able to collect twigs off the ground or carry hexamine tablets or whatever around with them. This FlameStower thing may work but it's clearly very inefficient and comes with its own problems, namely the stove can't be used while someone is charging their phone and the whole set up looks fiddly. Maybe a better option than either would be to buy a solar panel that attaches to a backpack, a few spare batteries and a second emergency pho
      • by geekoid (135745)

        "namely the stove can't be used while someone is charging their phone"
        false.

        " Maybe a better option than either would be to buy a solar panel that attaches to a backpack, a few spare batteries and a second emergency phone."
        ah, so you read nothing, have no experiences.

        HInt: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt -- Abraham Lincoln

        • by DrXym (126579)
          I suppose someone could build a tower of things over their stove in order for cook and charge at the same time but it would be obviously impractical and dangerous. And if you think it's a bad idea to take some spares an emergency phone and a solar charger than having the luxury of sitting around for a stove and device a phone to charge then it's you who is the fool.
  • BioLite (Score:5, Informative)

    by Steven Brent (3366707) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:12PM (#45021367)
    Not sure why someone would back this rather than support BioLite, who have already gone to market: http://www.biolitestove.com/ [biolitestove.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      biolite's store doesn't work even with scripts enabled (I don't permit google analytics, and a lot of people have designed their sites to fail if you do that, so fuck them sideways) and TFA isn't loading so I guess I won't bother to support either of these incompetents.

    • by sjwt (161428)

      Could be because

      a) the store link on their page doesn't seem to work
      b) Its $129 vs $80
      c) the FlameStower seems to lit a max output of 3W vs 2W

    • by paramour (110003)

      Because it weighs 7oz as opposed to 33oz, is a fraction of the size, and has the same power output (2W at 5V, continuous). True, the BioLite is also a stove and this isn't, but there are many high efficiency light weight stoves that should work with FlameStower, or apparently an open campfire if you're in a place where that is permitted.

      If you're car camping or day hiking you may not think saving over a pound in pack weight is important, but then again you probably don't need a USB recharger either. For

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)

      Thing's been on the market for years. Why can't editors or posters do the tiniest bit of research before declaring that something is NEW?

  • by starburst (63061) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:21PM (#45021431)

    You can purchase a BioLite camping stove that has USB charging today. We have one at our office for emergency off the grid charging. In our test we recharged an iPad and and iPhone.

    • Next time, you should just buy a ups or power inverter for your car...
      • by evilviper (135110)

        And what's the first thing you'll be unable to get in a power outage? That's right, gasoline.

        Sticks and twigs tend to be more plentiful, since you can't run your car on it.

        • Hmm... an array of BioLites... & Tesla car... sticks & twigs propulsion!

          • Speaking of Tesla, You can char them with fire also [jalopnik.com]... oh, chaaarrrge...

          • by adolf (21054)

            Hmm... an array of BioLites... & Tesla car... sticks & twigs propulsion!

            Isn't steam power easier?

            That said:

            Folks in Germany were using sticks & twigs propulsion on their cars during the war, when petroleum was unavailable to them, using the same internal combustion engines that they had run on gasoline previously. Google "Wood Gas" for more.

            It goes something like this:

            1. Make a vehicle-mounted anaerobic wood burner to smoulder wood in.
            2. Feed the resultant oxygen-deprived flammable gas to the

          • . . .introducing the first Kickstarter to show up after Tesla begins selling their SUV.
        • by adolf (21054)

          One of the first things that happened in the June 2012 power outage here, which lasted a week, was that the corner gas station brought in a huge portable genset and had it wired to their building. It didn't go off-line again, and operated more-or-less normally (one of the refrigeration compressors died, but the beer was still cold, so they moved the milk and cheese and other perishables over to the beer cave and everyone was happy).

          Meanwhile, headline topic is "charge your mobile device with fire." I don'

          • by evilviper (135110)

            the corner gas station brought in a huge portable genset

            That's the rare exception, NOT the rule. Read about any disaster, even routine ones like hurricane evacuations, and you'll find innumerable stories about gas stations being shutdown.

            I don't know about your car, but mine will keep a mobile device running for a very long time (at least a week, in my testing) and still be able to start,

            If you've got a second car, or just a second car battery, and a full tank of gas... fine. But if not, you're taking a h

            • by adolf (21054)

              I don't know what to tell you, then, especially if you think a cell phone charger draws "a couple amps." That's 24 Watts in, for a maximum of 5 Watts out. The remaining 19 Watts must be dissipated as heat within the charger itself: What you describe is a fire hazard, not a cell phone charger.

              My compact car has a 140A alternator and a rather large battery.

              It's not my fault that people buy cars that barely work.

              • by evilviper (135110)

                The remaining 19 Watts must be dissipated as heat within the charger itself: What you describe is a fire hazard, not a cell phone charger.

                Because so many night lights spontaneously burst into flames?

                And nobody would EVER buy a terribly inefficient $2 no-name Chinese made cell phone car charger...

                It's not my fault that people buy cars that barely work.

                Recommending activities that'll leave other people stranded in an emergency, due to your own ignorance of automobiles and electronics, is ENTIRELY your own fa

                • by adolf (21054)

                  Heh. Yeah, because night lights are just like car chargers, AND one or more of them are able to violate the law of conservation. Right?

                  Tell you what, since you're clearly the superior one: Go find thyself a 20 Watt resistor. It will be a large thing. Feed sufficient current through it that it is dissipating 19 Watts.

                  Wait a few minutes, and check again: Make sure it's still dissipating 19 Watts now that it is warmed up.

                  Touch it. It will be hot.

                  Now wrap it in non-ventilated plastic with poor thermal co

                  • by evilviper (135110)

                    Fortunately for everyone, and as proven daily by millions of users of cheap Chinese car chargers, it's very cheap to make a switching power supply of reasonable efficiency.

                    Except, of course, the cheap ones are NOT SPSes.

                    instead of the 19 Watts you claim

                    You might want to remember that you're the one that pulled that number out of your backside, not me.

                    • by adolf (21054)

                      Except, of course, the cheap ones are NOT SPSes.

                      All the cheap ones I've had apart are. (We used to buy cheap Chinese charging adapters for less than $2, and mark them up to $30 with a "lifetime warranty." Surprisingly few ever came back, and most of those were issues related to cables or connectors.)

                      You might want to remember that you're the one that pulled that number out of your backside, not me.

                      Nope, I'm pretty sure that was you: You're the one who said a car charger draws 2 amps. 2A @ 12V = 24 Watts

                    • by evilviper (135110)

                      All the cheap ones I've had apart are.

                      So you immediately admit to extremely limited experience, and yet that doesn't prevent you from mouthing off on a topic you know little about.

                      Of course I knew that when you were pretending you knew anything about car electrical system... Actually, it was probably long before that, when I added you to my foes list, however long ago.

                      Meanwhile, it is reasonably common for mobile cell phone chargers these days to be able to deliver 1A at 5V, or 5 Watts.

                      I'll take you 3 seco

                    • by adolf (21054)

                      Yep, you sure are the same evilviper that I had discourse with awhile back.

                      Do you have friends?

                      Also, where do you live, crazy Internet person?

                    • by adolf (21054)

                      I'll take you 3 seconds on Amazon to find car chargers that draw and output more than that...

                      Did you mean "It'll?"

                      Anyhow, you're right! There are higher-output chargers. Of course these require more input power than those with lower output. None of them draw 2A @ 12V.

                      But a cellular telephone can only draw so much total power (in terms of Joules or kiloWatt-hours or horsepower-fortnights or whatever) before its battery is charged, and then they tend to sip current. On a week-long scale, which seems to b

                    • by adolf (21054)

                      And, again, where do you live, crazy Internet person? I still want to do my own independent research to see if your actual, documented local water issues are any match for your bark on /..

                    • by evilviper (135110)

                      None of them draw 2A @ 12V.

                      You sure didn't look much.

                      But a cellular telephone can only draw so much total power (in terms of Joules or kiloWatt-hours or horsepower-fortnights or whatever) before its battery is charged, and then they tend to sip current.

                      Yup. UNLESS: "your charger or phone misbehave at all... Something simple like leaving a navigation app running in the background could do it."

                      Your reading comprehension skills are shining as much as ever.

                      You called me incompetent, first. Later on, I descri

                    • by adolf (21054)

                      I looked for 3 seconds, just as you suggested. Didn't find one.

                      Maybe you can point my in the direction of one of these phone chargers that draw 2A @ 12V, since they're apparently very common. Perhaps I'm just not looking in the right place.

                      "your charger or phone misbehave at all... Something simple like leaving a navigation app running in the background could do it."

                      Presumably, the purpose of emergency charging is to charge the phone and get it back into the user's hands, not to see how quickly it can ki

    • by adolf (21054)

      The camp stoves are cool: A buddy of mine has one. Probably is a useful thing for camping, but I don't think I'd care to have one around the house or office.

      My own emergency charging rig is simpler, in that it does not require fire: A small, cheap solar panel, and a cheap OEM microusb car charger [amazon.com] that is happy with up to 24V.

      For night-time use, I also keep an inexpensive jump-start pack charged and ready. It can keep phones charging for a long, long time, or can run small power tools from an inverter i

  • Couldn't you just use the heat from direct sunlight?
    • by sjwt (161428)

      Thermovoltaic works on the difference between hot and cold, you will get much more power on a few hundred degrees difference rather than 10 degrees

    • Sunlight isn't reliable. Fire from a small stove, or a few dry twigs, or even moss can be counted on with planning, though.
  • by klingers48 (968406) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:29PM (#45021487)
    ...Of how many iPhone charges you could get out of those pesky rainforests...
    • by caseih (160668)

      But ironically, burning wood to charge your phone is pretty close to carbon neutral, at least if the entire world isn't doing it and deforesting the planet in the process. Provided the fire is from dead wood in a healthy forest, this is completely carbon neutral. Big ifs, sure. But combustion is not always a bad thing.

  • This will make it more convenient than ever to leave civilisation behind when I go camping.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If it's using the seebeck effect (opposite: peltier effect) it's not efficient.

    • Does it need to be? True sitting there and running a torch/burner or having a campfire specifically for this device would be idiotic. But fire in one form or another is pretty normal in a camping setting. Simply setting this device next to an already active heat source isn't going to effect what it is already doing, and your going to get a little extra use out of that heatsource at the same time. Seems to be a win/win to me. Though I do think it needs a bit of a redesign, having an open water source ne

  • using the thermal deferential between the fire and water

    News for nerds, homophones that matter?

  • I would boil water over a fire to create steam, I would feed the steam through a turbine that would turn a rotor in an magnetic field, and then that would charge some caps and other charge storing circuitry and ultimately feed to a VR circuit that feeds the battery. Probably could be done for less than $5. Disclaimer: I'm not an EE
    • Microturbines have been researched for years, I don't think there has been one (known, quite a bit of the research has been military) design that wasn't horribly inefficient, maintenance intensive, and prone to failures. If they can ever do it I'm sure they will replace many applications, but despite many claims to have achieved it there have never been any production runs that I am aware of.

      • Darn. And here I was pretty sure I invented something without moving from my desk chair.

        This oversight might have somthing to do with my lack of "EEness". I am but a lowly firmware engineer.
    • turbine small enough and sturdy enough for camping use, and light enough to spin under low pressures you could generate would be at least 10x your price estimate. The VR circuit (DC-DC) alone would eat your $5 budget.
    • Really small turbines have the problem that friction etc consumes a far more significant amount of the output than really large turbines. The seebeck effect in thermocouples and presumably this thing does scale down to small sizes without large losses so eventually there is a crossover point where it makes far more sense than a tiny turbine.
  • Terribly inefficient (Score:4, Informative)

    by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday October 02, 2013 @09:51PM (#45021597) Journal

    Peltiers are terribly inefficient in the best case. The only one I've seen that makes sense is a wood-stove heat circulating fan, since the fan does double-duty.

    If you want to recharge your batteries or phone off-grid, you really can't do better than solar. Here's a $20 charger that'll charge batteries from and to USB, or from solar. Only thing it's missing is a tiny white LED for backup flashlight use:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042Z14FO/ [amazon.com]

    Or you can go a little cheaper if you don't want the USB functionality, and prefer more flexibility:

      http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0098SWJUE/ [amazon.com]

    Both will give 4 AA batteries an 80% charge in a day of sunlight, which is enough to charge your phone from zero. If you need faster charging than that, you'll need to spend a bit more. Something like this 7 watt panel should suffice:

      http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CJJ4OUW/ [amazon.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Power Pot as an alternative. I like the idea of charging my GPS while cooking dinner or boiling water for coffee in the morning. http://www.thepowerpot.com/

  • This is going to be horribly inefficient and eat up your camping fuel supply. Just stick one of the numerous available solar panel kits on your backpack...
  • My Nexus will be fully recharged by fire.

    • Not really, it provides a nominal power output of slightly less than a standard USB port. About 1/4 of the wall charger your Nexus came with.

  • Did anyone else immediately think of LasGuns from 40k?
  • Does anyone know how these work? Does it use a Peltier thermoelectric generator? I assume the water acts as a heatsink for the "cooling" side.

  • And something to do with fire definitely came to mind, but it nothing to do with charging the battery.
  • originality fail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday October 03, 2013 @01:13AM (#45022481)

    www.thepowerpot.com
    It may cost more ($149) but it provides twice the power and is already commercially available.

    I'm sure there are more around, but that was the first one google found.

  • But it reminds me of a VERY old game captive. When one of your androids was low on batteries you could as a last ditch attempt use fire to recharge your battery partially.
  • Real nerds get a Stirling engine (built from kit acceptable) and hook it up to a DC motor from an RC car to act as a generator. Voltage regulation to 5 V or 12 V via a simple resistor network is similarly acceptable.
  • If ites really about power everywhere, use a hand generator. In Japan i bought one for 3000Yen, with radio, pocket light, a charging port, and a buzzer (in case you are somewhere in the rubble after the earthquake its much easier to turn on the buzzer than to shouth all the time). Dont remeber if it charged USB back then, but had connector for all usual phones in Japan.

    http://www.amazon.com/CUTEBEAT-TY-JR11-waterproof-charging-TOSHIBA/dp/B005FB4CG2/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top [amazon.com]

    Otherwise if you insist in using he

  • Pedal powered generators have been used to power remote communications for a long time: http://www.antiqueradio.com/traeger_pedal_07-99.html [antiqueradio.com] That's possibly better than wasting your camp fuel to achieve a charge. Maybe the trick is not to charge the phone, but to run the generator when you need the phone, as these pedal powered radios were operated.
  • Awesome! Now I can charge my Dell laptop using my Dell laptop. http://explodinglaptop.com/laptops.php [explodinglaptop.com]

  • I am going to do a Kickstarter project. Create an originality filter for Kickstarter.

    Perhaps before you throw money at this project, realize this is nothing new or novel:

    http://www.homehardware.ca/en/rec/index.htm/Outdoor-Living/Seasonal/Outdoor-Lighting/Solar-Light-Sets/Warm-White-LED-Candle-Lantern/_/N-ntmjw/R-I3635216 [homehardware.ca]

    Whether you are charging LED's or cellphones, the concept is already invented.

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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