Mobile Technology

Portable fuel cell uses butane to charge gadgets

Portable fuel cell uses butane...
The portable LSI fuel cell (Photo: Lilliputian Systems Inc)
The portable LSI fuel cell (Photo: Lilliputian Systems Inc)
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The portable LSI fuel cell (Photo: Lilliputian Systems Inc)
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The portable LSI fuel cell (Photo: Lilliputian Systems Inc)

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.

Source: Lilliputian Systems Inc via CNET

17 comments
Slowburn
How long would it take to charge a car battery?
sinan
@Slowburn How funny!.. I hope it gives you a small peek into the future, though.. Of course, the future of mobility is electric! But with it comes the "cut the wire" mode. And with it I do not need anymore nuclear/coal plants instead I can use whatever method harmless to charge my batteries. Small scale or else...
Brendan Dunphy
" 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." So I can't take a can of Butane onboard but I can when its in this thing? Please explain....
mrhuckfin
I'm a BIG fan of fuel cell's and this one seems like one of the better ones? Now let's scale it up and use it to power electric cars, this is the only way they'll ever be viable. :-)
ChristianSFO
@Brendan Dunphy - I saw this on another site: "About the size of a deck of cards, the charger will reportedly cost between $100 and $200, with the plastic replacement butane cartridges costing less than $5. The cartridges, which will be manufactured by cigarette lighter makers, will be sealed in such a way that TSA regulations will allow them to be carried on airplanes, according to Lilliputian."
Skip Michael
Let me see... hummm cost $100 or $200 USD. Just how many batteries can I buy with that amount of money. I would say anywhere between 12 and 25 batteries, and I use what... 1 or 2 batteries per phone lifetime! Doesn't sound much of a bargain to me. It sound insanely stupid to me. Maybe that is what they are counting on, they believe the media saying that we Americans are stupid and lazy and wont use a calculator to figure out how much this thing will cost to operate and what little benefit it provides.
Bryan Paschke
@skip Michael: there IS a niche for these things, even at that price. There ARE those of us who go "back of the beyond" and camp and kayak...Something like this would be REAL NICE for a week trip into the wilderness. Also, this may mean that a butane powered laptop is just around the corner. A laptop with a transfinite battery run time (assuming a small battery + a fuel cell or even a hot-fillable fuel cell) would be VERY nice. I'm tired of the cords.
bio-power jeff
@Skip Michael
I think you might have misunderstood the purpose of this gadget. This is not a battery, but a charger. Instead of hauling bigass external battery packs for tablet pcs and phones, this charger would be very practical for long hikes or travels with no available power sources. And as for the price, I used to have a battery pack for the iPhone 3GS, Mili, and it had about the same energy as the internal 3GS battery but cost roughly 110 dollars(I live in korea, so it might be different in us).
For this price, specs, and size, I think this is competitive in the market for backup chargers and I would seriously consider buying it.
Nathan Jeffree
@ skip Michael.... sorry to rain on your parade, but its about about "charging" your devices, not replacing their batteries.
Charles Barnard
Power output? Voltages? W/lb butane? Exhaust temp/velocity?