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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Charging Our Gadgets As We Search?

Hm, re-charging gadgets just by walking. With all the wandering around and hiking I do with SAR, that could certainly come in handy.

I don't own one of these (in fact, they're only available for pre-order right now), but I thought this was interesting--a device that transforms the kinetic energy generated by walking into electricity for the portable electronic device it's plugged into. It's called the nPower PEG (Personal Energy Generator), developed by a company called Tremont Electric. The mechanical and biomedical engineer who invented the PEG and founded Tremont Electric came up with the idea while hiking 1,500 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

The 9-ounce device is said to be compatible with 90% of portable electronic gadgets, including GPS units, digital cameras, and most cell phones. The PEG isn't a battery itself, so it can't store kinetic energy for using later. Rather, it's a real-time converter that has to be plugged into the portable device as you and it are moving. A mini USB cable with various adapters connects the PEG to the portable gadget.

The PEG doesn't have to be worn on the person but is meant to be carried, like in a backpack for example. Just by walking (or hiking or running), enough kinetic energy is produced for the device to generate electricity. In fact, it apparently works while you're sitting in a moving vehicle, or if it's attached to some other moving object like a boat, bicycle, snowmobile or quad. Or on a horse for all you mounted SAR folks out there.

I sent an email to Aaron LeMieux, the inventor of the PEG, asking him if this device could work with headlamps somehow, and he replied, "Most headlamps do not have an integrated rechargeable battery like cell phones to plug into, which makes this application a little difficult right now. For my headlamp I use USB Cell’s (http://www.usbcell.com/) and recharge them with the nPower PEG. I acknowledge that this is a solution, but not the best solution. Hopefully, as we gain traction in the marketplace we will be able to work with a headlamp manufacturer to develop a more streamlined solution."

That would certainly make it even more useful for SAR. I for one have to change my headlamp and flashlight batteries no less than every couple of weeks and often once a week. Then there's the battery in my pager, the extra batteries we always have to carry for our handheld radios in the field, and the batteries for our GPS units.

I also asked Aaron about the radios we use on SAR missions. His reply: "The radios that you use are part of the industrial applications that we will be doing R&D on next year. This is a relatively easy application for us. We have been focusing our efforts on the Consumer market, knowing that once we get some traction we can hit a lot of other areas."

Obviously, if he and his company can pull off these applications--lights and radios--it would make the PEG technology much more useful for SAR work. But given the current "estimated price tag" of $150, it would take quite a bit of use to make up for the cost of the PEG compared to that of batteries. Obviously, though, there's more to the idea than just saving money; it's also about consuming less energy, since the PEG is intended to take the place of plugging portable devices into wall outlets for recharging.

For more information on the nPower PEG, visit the Tremont Electric website at Greenpower.com.

2 comments:

Flyin Brian said...

I carry a CallPod FuelTank with my gear. It is a little sneaky on their part to no have a standard USB port which requires you to buy adapters to fit each of your devices. I use the standard USB adapter and carry the couple of charging cables for my stuff. Very light and it's not too huge. I'm a little skeptical as to how the PEG could generate enough power from kinetic movement to charge a device, but I'll definitely be looking into it when it's released :)

Here's the link to the FuelTank http://www.callpod.com/products/fueltank

Deb Lauman said...

Hi, Brian...

Thanks for your comment. Yeah, I still have questions about the PEG, but the inventor (Aaron) has been very good about answering my emails, and I've sent him more questions (and comments) about the product. I wonder if he'd "lend" me one to test on SAR missions, given the potential applications. :)

I don't know how many different adapters one would need to cover all gadgets, but it would definitely be nice if, with the cost of the PEG, it came with several. Hopefully, too, as with many new technologies, the price will come down eventually, making it more appealing to more people.

I'll check out that FuelTank too. Thanks for the link.

Deb