The Japanese earthquake and tsunami last march left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. The devastation inspired a tech company called TES NewEnergy to develop a new device to generate emergency power during such catastrophes.

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The company already specializes in thermoelectric generation where heat is converted into usable electricity using various thermo-electric materials. They have now developed a cooking pot called the ‘Hatsuden-Nabe Thermo-Electric Cookpot’ that's embedded with such materials. When the pot is placed on a fire the temperature difference between the bottom of the pot (around 900 degrees F) and the relatively cooler boiling water (212 degrees F) creates an energy potential that is captured in a thermo-electric device and converted to produce 2 Watts of power. A user can tap into that energy via a USB port on the pot.


Kazuhiro Fujito, the CEO of TES NewEnergy tells PhysOrg how the idea came to him “When I saw the TV footage of the quake victims making a fire to keep themselves warm, I came up with the idea of helping them to charge their mobile phones at the same time.”

The thermo-electric cookpot may also have a wider application than just for disaster situations. In many developing countries, the electric grid is incomplete and people often need to travel out of their way to access electrical power. The device — one of many to be sure — will allow these people to charge their electronics from anywhere.

The pot is on sale in Japan as of this month for 24,150 Yen or about $300. Co-developer Ryoji Funahashi expects the cookpot to be competitive: “Unlike a solar power generator, our pot can be used regardless of time of day and weather while its small size allows people to easily carry it in a bag in case of evacuation.”

Credit: TES Energy