For many people, camping/emergency lanterns are one of those things that may sit for months without being used, only to have dead batteries when they're finally needed again. While solar-powered lanterns are one alternative, they do still need to sit in the sunlight for a few hours in order to charge. That's where Hydra-Light's PL-500 comes in. It's a fuel cell-powered lantern that's ready to shine as soon as it receives some salt water.
The PL(Personal Lantern)-500 features 16 LEDs, along with a USB outlet for charging devices such as smartphones. It also comes with a palm-sized 3-LED Accessory Light, which can be plugged into and powered by a 2.5-mm outlet on the main lantern, via a 30-ft (9-m) power cord.
At the core of the lantern's EC-250 EngergyCell is a carbon film cathode, and a high energy-density alloy anode called the PowerRod. When exposed to salt water, that PowerRod starts to oxidize, releasing an electrical current as it does so.
According to the designers, one "inexpensive" rod can power the lantern for over 250 hours before shrinking to the point that it needs to be replaced. When it does need replacing, the process reportedly takes just a few seconds.
The salt water can take the form of tap water mixed with ordinary table salt, or it can even be straight seawater. Needless to say, the fuel cell should be rinsed off and stored dry when the lantern isn't in use. It is claimed to have a shelf life of at least 25 years.
Hydra-Light plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the middle of this month, in order to finance production of the PL-500. A pledge of US$48 will get you one, when and if they're ready to go.