Despite the 20-degree Fahrenheit temperatures last night, hundreds gathered at Dumbo’s Pearl Street Triangle to witness the lighting of an LED Christmas tree powered by fire. Onlookers warmed their hands next to the energy-generating BioLite CampStove FirePit and drank copious amounts of hot cocoa donated by Jacques Torres to fight the chill. Close to the stroke of 6:30 pm, BioLite flipped the switch (or rather connected power plugs) on their thermoelectric camp stove to illuminate 500 LED lights strung on a 20-foot tall tree from Vermont.
Last night marked Dumbo’s 8th annual Christmas tree lighting since 2005. The Dumbo Improvement District organized the holiday bash and approached BioLite a year and a half ago to see how they could be involved. The result of the partnership was a scaled up, 500-pound version of BioLite’s camp stove, which converts heat created by burning wood into electricity. Similar to the smaller version, the giant one can also recharge phones on top of providing heat and light. The big stove can output 1,000 watts to power 400 smartphones or a smaller grouping of devices and the tree lights.
Monte MacDiarmid, who helped build the firepit, told Inhabitat that the large version is an approximately 200-percent scale iteration of the original stove. The unit took about a year to build in the backyard of a secret New Jersey skunkworks. The main compartment spans about 700 millimeters across to store a wheel barrel’s worth of wood. The yellow segment of the device, meanwhile, contains eight thermoelectric generators, which move heat between a hot side to a cool side through a semi-conductor to generate electricity.
“We had to make a few little tweaks, but from a conceptual view it’s exactly the same,” MacDiarmid explained. “The cold sides of those thermoelectric generators have to be cooled by liquid because we can’t air cool them like the CampStove.”
BioLite is also part of the Dumbo Test Kitchen project, which gives local startups small grants for works that are beneficial to the Dumbo community. Besides BioLite, Alexandria Sica, executive director of the Dumbo Improvement District, told us Pensa is also in the Test Kitchen program along with Flocabulary, which uses their educational software to partner with the local PS 307 elementary school. Sica says there will be more coming in the future.
“DUMBO is a thriving tech scene,” Sica quipped. “We have hundreds of digital and technology companies here, hundreds more creative and artists, and so we’re always working to promote them.”
The DUMBO Christmas Tree and BioLite CampStove FirePit will be on show until December 23rd every night until 8pm.
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Images © Kevin Lee for Inhabitat