A California start-up has developed a device that can charge smartphones with candles. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: A power outage - it's an experience all are familiar with and everyone dreads. The lights go out, the TV goes black, the computers shut down as their batteries drain. And worst of all - your smartphone dies. This scenario was one of the inspirations for Andrew Burns of California startup Stower to develop the candle charger. Its simplistic design is based on the principles of thermo-electrics, which have been around since the early 1800's. Light a candle, fill the device with water, and you have a charger. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREW BURNS, CO-FOUNDER, STOWER, SAYING: "You have a hot side or a hot plate and a cold plate and you smash these generators together and it's that temperature difference, it creates a diffusion of energy from the hot side to the cold side." That diffusion outputs between 2-3 watts, about the same amount of power derived from a USB port - perfect for charging smartphones and tablets. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREW BURNS, CO-FOUNDER, STOWER, SAYING: "Part the power of a mobile handset or a smartphone is infinitely greater than a vacuum cleaner and they only need tiny little bits of energy." The company has also developed a similar device designed to charge phones over a campfire. Burns advises to keep devices off and enjoy Nature when outdoors, but says that's not always an option. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREW BURNS, CO-FOUNDER, STOWER, SAYING: "I'd rather send a text from the top of a mountain than from a desk in my office." The company is currently working on developing a charger for stove tops in Guatemala as part of a push to expand their business and provide sustainable micro-energy solutions in emerging markets. Burns says a tiny fire can make a huge difference when the lights go out.