Charge Your Phones While Making Soup

For moments when keeping a pot boiling for three to five hours is more practical than plugging your iPhone into an outlet, the Hitochaja HC-5 saucepan offers a solution, proving that alternative energy sources aren’t necessarily practical.

The HC-5 turns heat into power, creating a 400 milliamp trickle that will juice up an iPhone in way more time than it takes to boil an egg. The USB output will work with most mobile devices, and to be fair, it should charge devices with smaller batteries like the iPod Nano faster — probably by the time your stew is
ready to eat, anyway.

The $285 pan is available in Japan, and one has to assume that the scars of this year’s earthquake and tsunami are responsible for the appeal of a product that will keep gadgets working when everything else has stopped.

Campers who want to charge a GPS device (or music player) might constitute another market for the product, though a solar charger would seem to be a more practical choice. Ralph Lauren makes a backpack with a solar panel built-in for the fashion-conscious rugged outdoors man. For sharing tunes with the rest of the camp (or band of survivors), there’s Eton’s Soulra XL, a solar-powered speaker set that also charges an iPhone or iPod.

In the near future, gadgets may actually power themselves with the sun. A French company is developing a screen coating that could trickle charge a device. But handsets with conventional integrated solar panels haven’t really caught on, though Samsung tried with its Blue Earth feature phone two years ago.

Most mobile technology requires functional infrastructure to be relevant, which may explain why off-the-grid power sources for them haven’t gained much traction. If there’s no plug around for days, or the power is down in a big way because of a disaster, network coverage isn’t likely to be on the menu either and most people will have more pressing things on their minds than listening to music.

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