Rechargeable batteries are the Achilles heel of portable electronics, requiring hours to recharge and generally having a life of around 1,000 recharge/discharge cycles before charge capacity starts to fall noticeably. To avoid both these problems, Sam Beck from Portland, Oregon-based Blueshift has created portable Bluetooth speakers that can be charged within five minutes and boast rated lifetimes of 500,000 charges thanks to being powered by supercapacitors.
We first learned of Blueshift last year when it was using crowdfunding to get its supercapacitor-powered Helium Bluetooth speakers off the ground. Having reached its funding goal and delivered units to backers, the company is now going back to the crowdfunding well to expand its model lineup and is continuing its journey around the periodic table with its next-gen, supercapacitor-powered speaker called Hydrogen.
Like its predecessors, the Hydrogen features an enclosure made of bamboo with a simple handle, speaker port and some simple control switches. Under the hood, supercapacitors are in place of the lithium-ion batteries found in the plethora of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market. These provide play time of over four hours at 80 percent volume, and have a rated lifetime of 500,000 charge/discharge cycles..
So if supercapacitors offer such advantages, why aren't they found in all portable devices? One of the main reasons is cost. They are much more expensive than batteries, which is a major concern for manufacturers competing in the crowded Bluetooth speaker market.
They are also low voltage devices, requiring multiple supercapacitors to be combined to produce a practical working voltage. They also have lower power densities than batteries, which means they take up more space. This means the small form factor of many competitor offerings isn't possible, with the Hydrogen measuring 9 x 8 x 4 in (23 x 20 x 10 cm) and weighing 4 lb (1.8 kg). That's still portable, just not as portable as some others.
Sharing space under the ported enclosure with the supercapacitors is a 3-in full range speaker driver (down from the 4-in driver found in the Helium models), class D amplifier and 1/8-in wired inputs. It pairs with smartphones and other Bluetooth-enabled devices via the A2DP profile and, like the other models Blueshift offers, is hand built in small batches using custom parts.
To help buyers keep their speaker running and potentially let them improve on the design, Beck has also made all Hydrogen design files open source and freely available to download.
The company is over three quarters of the way towards its US$10,000 crowdfunding goal with over a week still to run. The unit is priced at $300 for early bird backers, with deliveries slated to begin in January 2015 if all goes to plan.
You can learn more about the Hydrogen from Blueshift via the pitch video below.