Crank up the power
Company taps human energy to run appliances
An expanded Web version of segments seen on CNN
January 8, 1997
Web posted at: 9:10 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Ann Kellan
(CNN) -- Imagine appliances that aren't plugged in and that
don't require batteries, fuel, or even solar energy. Their
power source has been around for thousands of years, and
you've got some of it with you right now.
The latest in electronic gadgets run
on a basic principle: the power of human energy.
Windup Gadget Radio
24 sec./1.2M QuickTime movie
A wind-up radio, called the "free-play radio," has been on
the market for only a few months and costs about $100. Sixty
turns of the crank delivers 30 minutes of listening.
Vaughan Wiles, president of BayGen, the South African company
that manufactures the free-play, explains that the device's
power generator is powered by a spring wound from one spool to another.
"The energy is stored on one side of the spool, transfers to
the other, and runs through the gear train," says Wiles. "If
there's a human being around that can wind, it'll work."
(264K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The radio will last for thousands of hours, says BayGen's
Wiles, who added that it was initially designed to get
information to countrymen in under-developed regions.
The same concept is put to work in a wind-up flashlight that
is due to hit the market in another six months. The
prototype, Wiles says, will run for about eight minutes..
Users can increase or decrease the intensity of the light.
Decreasing it saves power and extends the duration.
(306K/28 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
College students who got a look at the wind-up flashlight
said they'd be willing to wind it up to save energy and lose
the hassle of batteries.
BayGen says it's useful for emergencies and power outages.
The company is considering cell phones, laptop computers and
generators as it looks for new ways to link the old energy
source with modern technology.
(544K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"We are in the middle of research now," Wiles says. "We
anticipate that there are other technologies ... to further
advance the utility of these products."
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