Portable fuel cell uses butane to charge gadgets
By Ben Coxworth
May 10, 2012
In a deal announced this week, American high-end retailer Brookstone will become the first seller of a portable fuel cell made by MIT spin-off company Lilliputian Systems Inc (LSI). Described as a “plug-less charger,” it will allow users to recharge their electronic devices’ batteries wherever they are – as long as they’ve stocked up on butane.
A CNET report states that the device is about the size of a thick smartphone, and that it uniquely features a solid oxide fuel cell membrane deposited onto a silicon wafer. It generates power using recyclable butane cartridges, which are around the size of a cigarette lighter. According to LSI, one of those cartridges should provide “several weeks of ‘always available’ Personal Power” – this is reportedly five to ten times longer than the run times offered by similarly-sized batteries. CNET adds that the fuel cell should be able to recharge an iPhone 4 a total of 10 to 14 times on one cartridge.
It can be used to charge or power any device that has a USB port, so a variety of different charging cables won’t be required for it to be used with multiple gadgets.
Although pricing has yet to be announced, LSI claims that it will be much less expensive than using conventional spare batteries. Additionally, it has been approved by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization and the U.S. Department of Transportation as an acceptable carry-on luggage item.
LSI and Brookstone have stated that more details will be forthcoming.
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