Although this story doesn’t fit the traditional mold of renewable energy, it does honor Earth Day. Power Practical, a student startup that sprang from research at the University of Utah (the U), is selling a portable cook pot, coined the PowerPot, that transforms heat and water into a power source. The technology uses thermoelectricity to generate power by capturing the electrons moving from the heated pot to the cooler water inside. The greater the temperature difference, the more electricity is generated.
The students behind the company have been surprised by its rapid growth and are struggling to keep up with growing interest and demand. David Toledo, co-inventor and founder said, “We knew we were on to something when we got requests from around the world and more than doubled our goal during our Kickstarter campaign. We just shipped all of those orders, and we are quickly getting our product into more stores.”
Paul Slusser is the other co-inventor and founder. Other members of the Power Practical team include Matt Ford, the CEO who graduated with a degree in finance from the U in 1990; Wafiq Ali, who is graduating this May with a business degree from the U; Caleb Light, a business graduate from University Valley University; and Kenyon Ellis, an international studies student at the U.
The company has already shipped more than 1,000 units after attracting $126,000 in funding from its debut on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, and they recently raised an additional $750,000 in seed funding.
“David and Paul are examples of what makes engineering so exciting by mixing creativity, science, math and design education, they came up with a product that improves the quality of life for people around the world,” said Richard Brown, dean of the College of Engineering at the U. “Being entrepreneurial comes naturally to many engineers. In fact, 41 percent of the spinoff companies from the U are from engineering.”
The PowerPot is geared toward camping enthusiasts but also for those in developing countries who need electricity, such as to charge a cell phone. The company has a growing variety of PowerPots that serve different needs. The basic model, the PowerPot V, weighs less than a pound and produces 5 volts, enough to charge a cellphone in 60 to 90 minutes. Larger models, like the PowerPot X, produce 10 volts and can charge larger devices, like a tablet computer.