Another great design on show at Wired magazine’s NextFest is the Potenco PCG, an innovative and ergonomic design to replace hand-crank generators. With more and more wind-up devices on the market, and the need for people in developing nations to be able to generate their own power, the PCG is a simple and ingenious new solution. PCG stands for pull-cord generator. With an action similar to a pull-cord starter on an outboard motor, but as small and ergonomic as a yoyo, pulling for only one minute can provide 20 Watts average power at peak, enough for 20 minutes of talk time on a mobile phone, 1 hour of ultrabright LED flashlight use or 3 hours play time on an iPod Shuffle.


The gorgeous design is rugged and durable, and is resistant to dust, water and knocks. At just 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches and weighing only 14oz, it is also smart, adjusting automatically to the strength of the puller, so even a child can use it. Hence the first application – the PCG has been chosen as the power supply for the XO Laptop available from the One Laptop per Child Project (OLPC).


Potenco’s CEO, Colin Bulthaup, has an impressive background in robotics and nanotech, and a string of awards to his name. He was recently named by Technology Review Magazine in their 100 top innovators under 35. Along with Brian Warshawsky and Ray Rahman, both with equally high credentials, they founded the company in order to deliver renewable, human-powered energy solutions to developing countries. Following on from their contract to power the XO laptop, they are working with organisations in Africa, Central America and South Asia to implement these technologies, so that lighting, communication and health problems can be solved for the 1.6 billion people in the world who live without electricity.

If, like me, you’re dying to get your hands on one of these lovely gizmos, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while. Concentrating on the developing world means that the PCG isn’t yet available to buy commercially, although they do plan for it to be in the future. You can go on their mailing list, and they’ll let you know when they will be on sale. I think that if they got them into stores and online before Christmas, they could raise an awful lot of money for those worthwhile causes.




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