Techno-coaster will charge your phone with hot coffee
Fancy a little juice with your coffee? A Kickstarter campaign is aiming to raise $100,000 for a coffee coaster that will charge your phone, using nothing but the heat from your morning joe - or the cold from your chilled brew.
Epiphany Labs has raised $29,000 at the time of writing for its crowd-funded coaster. The OnE Puck uses a 200 year-old concept called the Stirling Engine, which uses the difference in temperature between two surfaces to generate energy. This energy is then converted into electricity, which can be fed to your phone or other device using a standard USB cable.
A Stirling engine typically works by using the temperature differential to continually compress and decompress a gas. In this case, the difference is provided by the temperature of the drink that you put on the coaster. A hot drink can be placed on one side of the coaster, or a cold drink on the other.
The device works best with very hot or very cold drinks, because it makes the temperature difference greater. When working well, Epiphany Labs says that it can provide around the same power as a standard phone charger.
Other than the sheer cleverness of taking a 200 year-old engineering principle and putting it into something simple and useful, this project has other appeal. It's the first step in a broader effort to try and produce larger Stirling engines that could power entire households. The company also wants to use it to power solar water systems for water-scarce developing regions - while also providing them with a useful source of electricity, too.
You probably wouldn't want to use this as your main charger (unless you wanted to increase your fluid intake substantially and pee a lot). But it's a good backup. For those times when you're down to your last bar, what better excuse to walk into one?
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets