Point Source Power and Berkeley Lab won an R&D 100 award for the company’s Voto product. The innovative device is based on a solid oxide fuel cell that is powered by burning charcoal, wood or other types of biomass—even cow dung—the types of fuel that many in the developing world use for cooking. The fuel cell sits in the fire and is attached to circuitry in a handle that is charged as the fuel cell heats up to temperatures of 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. The handle, which contains an LED bulb, can then be detached and used for lighting or to charge a phone.
Michael Tucker, a member of the development team, is in the Electrochemical Technologies Group of EETD's Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Department. Craig Jacobson, CEO and co-founder of Point Source Power, based in Alameda, California, co-invented the fuel cell in his 13 years as a materials scientist at Berkeley Lab. Working with Steve Visco, Tucker and Lutgard DeJonghe, their breakthrough was in finding a way to replace most of the ceramics in the fuel cell with stainless steel, a far cheaper and more durable material. Jacobsen, Visco, and DeJonghe are all affiliated with the Materials Sciences Division of BerkeleyLab.