Battery low? Give your mobile some water

Apr 18, 2013
Battery low? Give your mobile some water
The portable PowerTrekk only needs a little water to charge a mobile phone.

A power source for your mobile phone can now be as close as the nearest tap, stream, or even a puddle, with the world's first water-activated charging device.

Based on technology developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the MyFC PowerTrekk uses ordinary water to extend battery life for devices of up to 3 watts.

Anders Lundblad, KTH researcher and founder of MyFC, says that the device can be powered by fresh or seawater. The water need not be completely clean.

"Our invention has great potential to accelerate social development in emerging markets," Lundblad says. "There are large areas that lack electricity, while mobile phones fulfill more and more vital functions, such as access to weather information or electronic payment."

A USB connector attaches the compact PowerTrekk charger to the device. When plain water is poured onto a small disposable metal disc inside the unit, is released and combines with oxygen to convert into electrical energy. The resulting charge is enough to power an to between 25 and 100 per cent of its .

Lundblad has done research on micro fuel cells and small flat (PEM) fuel cells for more than 15 years at the Department of Applied Electrochemistry at KTH. He says the business vision behind MyFC is to commercialise and contribute to the development of environmental technology.

The PowerTrekk water activated charger.

He says the charger is the first step toward building fuel cells in laptops.

"The launch of our charger is a strategic move to gain wide acceptance of fuel cells throughout society," he says. "Our chargers may be considered expensive now; but in the longer term, as they reach a mass market, they would go down in price."

Fuel cells can already be found in , trucks and buses, and backup electrical power supply systems for hospitals and cogeneration plants. The process by which fuel cells generate electricity is considered to be safe and environmentally-friendly, and the only by-product is water vapour. The fuel cell system is passive and has no fans or pumps.

Lundblad says that fuel cell chargers are faster and more reliable than solar chargers. The main target groups for MyFC PowerTrekk are those who travel or live in remote areas of the world, outdoor enthusiasts and aid workers, he says.

The charger is both a fuel cell and a portable battery, providing a direct power source as well as a storage buffer for the fuel.

MyFC plans to open an online shop for its MyFC PowerTrekk product. The company has already sold the technology to users in China, Japan, the U.S. and much of Europe.

Explore further: Matched 'hybrid' systems may hold key to wider use of renewable energy

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User comments : 10

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arq
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
One of the best technologies for back up power....in the present. But in the future who knows, it could become a mainstream power source.
Duude
1.3 / 5 (10) Apr 18, 2013
Way cool.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 18, 2013
There are large areas that lack electricity, while mobile phones fulfill more and more vital functions, such as access to weather information or electronic payment

I hope he is aware that mobile phones require the occasional tower (which needs to be powered) - and hence if the 'large area' is completely devoid of electricity then the mobile phone battery extender won't be worth squat?

And for some reason this article pops up regularly on physorg since early 2012
From Jan 2012:
http://phys.org/n...tml#nRlv
From Feb 2012:
http://phys.org/n...tml#nRlv

and contribute to the development of environmental technology.

Disposable metal discs don't really sound all that environmentally friendly to me.
gwrede
1 / 5 (9) Apr 18, 2013
And for some reason this article pops up regularly on physorg since early 2012
I noticed the same thing.

Maybe they're low on marketing money and use science sites instead.

Muzzy
not rated yet Apr 18, 2013
Even though network coverage expands in Africa, with base stations on and off the grid, powered by diesel and solar, there are many households without their own electrical power. People resort to charging phones off of car batteries, for example. On the contrary, a mobile comes in quite handy in parts of Africa where power is scarce, especially when traveling from one village to another takes hours and can be dangerous.
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
There are large areas that lack electricity, while mobile phones fulfill more and more vital functions, such as access to weather information or electronic payment

I hope he is aware that mobile phones require the occasional tower (which needs to be powered) - and hence if the 'large area' is completely devoid of electricity then the mobile phone battery extender won't be worth squat?

Are you aware of solar powered cell towers?

To me, it seems this would have applications to small, electronic devices beyond cell phones. Are you aware of such devices?
grondilu
not rated yet Apr 18, 2013
I don't understand how this works. Where does the energy come from??
Sanescience
1.8 / 5 (10) Apr 18, 2013
I'm not sure how this should be compared with solar recharging. The solar recharger works indefinitely with the caveat there are restrictions to when you can use it.
The article very carefully doesn't say how often you have to replace the "disposable disk". Dare I guess every time you have to recharge? Run out of disks and your back to using your solar charger.
ValeriaT
1.8 / 5 (10) Apr 18, 2013
Way cool.
We are reading about it (with the same picture) from 2011 every year.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Apr 19, 2013
I don't understand how this works. Where does the energy come from??

It's a redox reaction. The water reacts with the metal disc (oxidizing the metal and releasing hydrogen in the process). When the metal(surface) is fully oxidized it needs to be disposed of.
There are a number of metals which react -sometimes violently- with water (look up "alkali metals")

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