The latest recipient of the Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) Cool Idea! Award, VOTO, uses fuel cell technology to transform heat into electricity that can be used for cell phone charging or LED lighting. This handheld device is helping bring affordable electricity to developing countries.
The VOTO consists of a fuel cell box, fuel cards, a plastic handle that houses a NiMH battery, a white LED and electronic circuitry. Users insert the supplied fuel cards, wood, charcoal, food waste, or even cow dung into the fuel cell box, which is then placed into the middle of a cook stove. Once the stove is lit and the fuel cell box heats up, electricity is captured and stored in the NiMH battery. After the fire cools, the VOTO is disconnected and is ready to charge a phone or power its built-in LED light.
According to Point Source Power, the company behind VOTO, Africa alone has more than 650 million mobile phone subscribers, most of which do not have electricity in their homes, and must travel to charge them. Additionally, kerosene lamps are the current standard for home lighting. “We intend to displace dirty, toxic and expensive kerosene lamps with an intuitive LED lighting and phone-charging product that people enjoy using, and which is affordable to the billions of people living without access to modern electricity,” says Craig Jacobson, Point Source Power CEO.
“The VOTO solves an ever-present problem facing residents of developing nations through practical means. By incorporating a device that’s already used in daily life – a cook stove – this product brings increased quality of life to residents of those countries,” says Larry Lukis, Founder and Chairman of Proto Labs.
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