Corvallis company at cutting edge of new power source -- your body

Corvallis company at cutting edge of new power source -- your body

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Think of a world without batteries.

A local company is working on a product -- a pump -- that might be the wave of the future because it might free you from having to buy batteries for your gadgets.

"This pump is absolutely critical to our manufacturing process," said Nick Fowler, the CEO of Perpetua Power Source Technologies.

Unless you own a factory, it's not this pump that's interesting, though. It's what's stuck to the side of it.

"The power puck is taking waste heat from this pump," Fowler said.

The round object with all the fins sticking out of it is turning heat into electricity to power a sensor which tells the pump's owner if something goes wrong.

"Ordinarily those sensors would be battery operated and they would only last two months, maybe up to a year if you're lucky," Fowler said.

But this power puck will last a decade and beyond. The Corvallis company embedded the heat harvesting technology into a jacket. KATU News reporter Dan Tilkin put on that jacket.

"It might be a little on the large size, because we had to have room for the heat devices on the mannequin," Fowler said.

"So I should have worked out more, you're telling me?" Tilkin asked.

"Oh, no, no, no," Fowler said. "Why don't we go ahead and zip it up and that will bring the the thermal electric generators into closer contact with your chest. And now your body heat is beginning to warm thermal electric generators."

Wafer-thin thermal electric generators are now producing electricity. The jacket is a prototype developed under a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to power devices its agents might wear.

"Presently, we can't provide enough power to transmit on an Iphone," Fowler said. "We'd have to cover a fairly broad section of your body to generate enough electricity for an iPhone, but an iPod or MP3 is certainly within the realm of things we can power."

Perpetua is also developing arm bands to collect more body heat and more electricity -- the same way solar cells collect heat from the sun.

"Ultimately, we want to get into the consumer business and compete with regular batteries," Fowler said. "We're not there yet. We're still a couple years away from competing with consumer level batteries, but for specialty applications we are always on, always available power is a requirement, we're very very close."

It's close, but there's still a lot of work to do to make the industrial product personal.

"That's the exciting part of any company is translating your dream into reality," Fowler said.

Recently the Coquille Indian Tribe made a substantial investment in Perpetua. The company will expand to a production facility on tribal-owned property in North Bend while also expanding its Corvallis headquarters.