Outdoors

Fuel cell lantern ditches batteries for salt water

Fuel cell lantern ditches batt...
One of the PL-500's fuel cell anodes is claimed to last as long as 85 AA batteries
One of the PL-500's fuel cell anodes is claimed to last as long as 85 AA batteries
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The PL-500 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
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The PL-500 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
One of the PL-500's fuel cell anodes is claimed to last as long as 85 AA batteries
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One of the PL-500's fuel cell anodes is claimed to last as long as 85 AA batteries
The PL-500 features 16 LEDs, along with a USB outlet for charging devices such as smartphones
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The PL-500 features 16 LEDs, along with a USB outlet for charging devices such as smartphones
A diagram of the PL-500
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A diagram of the PL-500
According to the designers, one PowerRod can power the PL-500 for over 250 hours before shrinking to the point that it needs to be replaced
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According to the designers, one PowerRod can power the PL-500 for over 250 hours before shrinking to the point that it needs to be replaced
Hydra-Light plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance production of the PL-500
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Hydra-Light plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance production of the PL-500

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.

Hydra-Light plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance production of the PL-500
Hydra-Light plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in order to finance production of the PL-500

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.

Source: Hydra-Light

6 comments
Nik
Back in the 60's when I was caving/potholing, we used carbide lamps. They only needed water, [unsalted] and some carbide granules, that could be stored dry, indefinitely. Very low tech, but simple, cheap, and foolproof. For maintenance one required a 'pricker' to clean the jet. periodically. Early vehicles used the same technology.
Larry Hooten
I got curious as to how it works, so I looked it up. Found the patent: "A lantern and power source includes a hollow housing with a hollow tubular power cell formed within the housing. The tubular power cell includes an anode rod formed of a magnesium alloy and extending along the longitudinal axis of the hollow tube. An opening formed in the side wall of the hollow tube is covered by a metal cathode plate, and the tube is filled with salt water. An electrical lamp is mounted on the housing and has one terminal connected to the anode and one terminal connected to the cathode such that a flow of electrons caused by the caustic reaction of salt water with the magnesium alloy anode will light the lamp."
BristolBob
When I was a kid, I had a carbide cannon. You loaded CAC2 and a little water and (PRESTO) acetylene. Then a spark and BOOM!!!
Don Duncan
If it goes unused for 10 years, how much life is left? What is the rate of decomposition?
dromedary
The author is mixing the terms "fuel cell" and "energy cell". What we have here is a plain non-rechargeable battery. Google "dry-charged battery". This is not a new concept. 8 AA batteries would give you better performance with 10 year life and no need to add/remove the salt electrolyte at every use.
dromedary
The author is mixing the terms "fuel cell" and "energy cell". What we have here is a non-rechargeable battery. Google "dry-charged battery". This is not a new concept. 8 AA batteries would offer better performance with 10 year shelf life and no need to add/remove the salt electrolyte at every use.