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Photo: Epiphany Labs

First thing in the morning, many of us drag ourselves out of bed, make coffee, and promptly start checking emails on our smartphone. (Seriously, who sends out all those 2 am emails? Elves?) In our plugged-in society, few things go together like coffee and smartphones — it’s the new PB&J! Now, a new product seeks to combine these morning must-haves via a handy, energy-savin’ machine that charges a smartphone with the power it captures from a cup o’ joe.

What’s the Deal?

The Epiphany onE Puck charger, still in the design phase, syncs up the morning rituals of email checkin’ and coffee drinkin’. The device uses the heat (or coldness, come summertime and the preference for iced coffee) emitted by a cup of coffee to charge the phone. Users simply place a beverage on top of the gadget, plug in a USB charger, and get juicin’. At its maximum output, the device can produce 5 watts of energy — the same amount used by standard smartphone chargers — and it’s compatible with all iPhones, iPads, Androids. The handy doodad is convenient for travel and perfect for those times when hunting down an outlet is harder than finding the Holy Grail.

The onE Puck looks like it’s straight out of The Jetsons, but this coaster-sized gadget gets its power from an old-school mechanism called a Stirling engine. Way back in 1816, Scottish inventor Robert Stirling created an engine that used extreme temperatures (heat or cold) to drive pistons that would compress and expand gas within an enclosed chamber, producing electricity. Unlike an internal-combustion engine (used, for example, in cars), Stirling engines are very quiet and don’t release any emissions. All that science boils down to a teeny-tiny portable engine that fits in a hockey puck-sized container. So heat up some tea (or soup, or even light a candle) and wait for your smartphone to come back to life without ever using electricity from an outlet.

Is It Legit?

Yes! Well, we think so. The technology behind the onE Puck is tried and true, even if the product isn’t available for sale just yet. However, the onE Puck operates best with extreme temperatures — a super-hot mug of tea or ice-cold glass of water will create more juice than a lukewarm beverage, meaning the power supply (and the amount of time it takes to charge a phone) might vary depending on the drink.

Is the gadget more convenient than just remembering to bring that gosh-darn charger? Probably not, but it’s definitely a neat way to cut down on energy consumption. Bonus: The team at Epiphany Labs is planning to use the lessons learned in the development of the onE Puck to tackle much bigger projects, such as powering larger appliances and even houses! Keep checking the Kickstarter page or the Epiphany Labs website for updates as this product goes through the final stages of development and production.

Would you use the Epiphany onE Puck to charge your phone? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet the author @SophBreene.