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SummaryA new device—using just heat or cold—may liberate your smartphone from the clutches of the wall socket.

Battery technology has long been considered the primary factor holding back consumer electronics. Your smartphone, for example, can do everything a computer can—word processing, internet access, gaming, multi-tasking, etc—and more. But the fact that all these phones still require regular charging holds them back from reaching their true potential. Already, on several phones, activating 3G comes with a warning—that this will drain battery life even faster. Consider what 4G will do. So, when there are innovative advancements in battery technology, it’s pretty exciting. A US-based company, Epiphany Labs, has developed a battery-like device that can convert either heat or cold into electricity. According to the company, placing a hot coffee or a cold beer adjacent to the relevant side of the device is enough for it to develop enough charge to power a cellphone. The device, called the Epiphany onE Puck employs a Stirling engine, which uses heat disparities to generate electricity. According to the inventors, the device in ideal conditions—a piping hot or ice cold surface—can charge a phone as fast as a conventional wall socket.

Now, the potential applications of such technology is tremendous in tropical countries. During the summer, these countries see the outsides of their buildings heating up tremendously. This free heat can easily be harnessed using a device like the onE Puck. So, instead of using solar energy in a chemical reaction, as solar panels do, this approach directly converts the sun’s heat, a seemingly more efficient method. The onE Puck might not solve the charging issue with smartphones, but it certainly opens up new avenues of research to make smartphones independent of conventional charging needs. Little wonder that Kickstarter, one of the largest funding platforms for creative projects, is reportedly interested in taking the device from prototype to production.

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