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Today is a day that you will probably tell your grandchildren about – the day they released the first affordable, pocket-sized fuel cell for personal usage. As with flying cars, personal jet packs and a usable voice recognition computer interface, the promise of a safe, affordable, personal power plant was entering the realm of perpetual vaporware. Now it's finally here! Whatsmore, at US$100, the Horizon MiniPak might well prove to be the “disruptive” technology the press release claims it to be. By producing electricity from hydrogen at the point of use and offering effectively unlimited run-time for personal electronics, it will almost certainly be the public's first experience of the coming Hydrogen Economy.
It's the first fuel cell product to compete on cost with both disposable and rechargeable batteries with just one refillable cartridge supplying as much power over its life as 1000 disposable AA alkaline batteries. Completing the fairytale sustainability pitch, it's also 100% recyclable, uses no heavy metals and there are no toxic liquids involved.
Specifically designed for portable consumer electronics, the MiniPak offers unlimited portable power for your cellphone, smartphone or personal media device. At higher production levels, prices are expected to drop to US$30, with fuel cartridge prices eventually comparable with disposable alkaline batteries, and refilling costs of just a few cents. Yep, this IS an important date in technology history because run-time will soon cease to be a limiting factor to productivity, connectivity, and lifestyle-enhancing electrically-powered everything such as flashlights, wireless speaker systems, personal mosquito repellents and GPS devices.
South Korean battery makers have developed a renewable battery charger based on 2,000 year old technology that generates power from saltwater or urine. The power generated by the portable emergency power source is sufficient to power a laptop for more than four hours, claim the maker.
MetalCell was designed for military use. The growing number of high-tech devices being used on the battlefield has soldier’s relying more heavily on electronics, and when these devices fail it can mean the difference between life and death.
MetalCell is compact enough to be carried by hand or in a rucksack, it’s also rugged enough to be stowed away for years awaiting that precious moment it’s needed.
MetalCell’s design is relatively simple; a small rugged box with magnesium plates inside. The device works by yielding the low-voltage power produced when sodium reacts with magnesium.
The idea is that soldiers will always have source of sodium. Those in the field have salt in their Meal, Ready-to-Eat packages, failing that urine could also be used to power the device says Art Morgan, CEO of the Northern Virginia-based company SEG Inc., which represents the product in the United States.
“You can pack away the device and let it sit for years until you need it,” Morgan says.
The concept is similar to ancient technology, known as the Bagdad battery, that some anthropologists believe was developed in Iraq thousands of years ago. Nobody knows how these batteries were used.
The standard MetalCell model costs about $200 and can be recharged with salt water until the magnesium plates deteriorate. The company is also marketing disposable models that are cheaper — about $120 — and come with salt tablets.