When UOW engineering student Tor Gjerde took hikes in the mountains and forests around his home in Norway, he got frustrated that he couldn’t recharge his devices when they ran out of battery.
Surely, he assured himself, there must be a product out there which could do this. However, his extensive searching and researching found nothing which offered a hiker a small, lightweight solution which could offer the needed power. Solar cells could be a viable option, but the power output to weight ratio was simply not high enough for his needs.
“I came up with this idea and design for an easy-to-use thermal charger,” Tor says on the website for MojoFirecharger (http://www.mojoelectro.com). “Capturing some of the waste-heat while cooking on an open fire would be a cool way to generate true power on demand.”
He says that he knew such a solution would “probably be a big thing” as it would enable electricity to be generated with limited supplies nearly anywhere. However he did not think that as a second-year engineering student he’d be devoting time to developing a prototype that could resemble such a product.
Fortunately, UOW had a pathway to get Tor’s idea out of the forest and into the market.
FROM A CONCEPT TO SOMETHING MORE
Tor’s idea really took off into reality when he won the Global Challenges program Innovation Works! – a prototype competition for UOW students. It gave him access to materials, training and assistance and access to advanced manufacturing facilities to build the product prototype.
As the winner of Global Challenges student prototype competition; Innovation Works!, his prototype – initially called MOJO+ - was automatically entered into UOW Pitch, a program run by iAccelerate to seed new product innovations from university research. Tor’s pitch for his portable power ran second, which saw him awarded $4,000 and accepted into the iAccelerate incubator program.
It’s almost a year later, and his idea is really taking off. The MojoFirecharger business is now an iAccelerate resident, and soon a crowd funding campaign via Kickstarter to get the technology into the marketplace will begin.
“Without the people supporting me and letting me into the different programs, and the facilities for prototyping and manufacturing I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now -making MojoFirecharger a reality.”
PROTOTYPING, MACHINING, TESTING
Tor says his experience demonstrates that turning ideas into prototypes and products is becoming more accessible to anyone. There are now low cost 3D printers, companies offering low-volume manufacturing and multiple, and grassroots options for funding.
“The focus can now be shifted from trying to get it all right the first time and probably fail, towards experimenting with different design and thus solve problems in a more effective way,” he says.
The MojoFirecharger is centred on a component capable of converting heat into electricity. It works by a materials based principle called the ‘seebeck effect’ - the same principle that a lot of temperature sensors operate on.
Currently, Tor is testing just how much electricity his current prototype can generate, via this component (“the more the better!” he says).
The experience of developing the MojoFirecharger extends on Tor’s childhood interest of building, testing and creating in his parents shed: clearly a valuable lesson that may just have set him up to be one of the 21st Century’s great inventors.
Learn more: www.mojoelectro.com