Although it was the last thing we saw at the Industrial Revolution booth, we’re going to mention the PowerTrekk first, and come back to the other items later this week. No sense sitting on our hands when it comes to a product that’s already creating quite a bit of buzz (and a fair amount of impatience) due to its unique approach to generating electricity.
Having seen and tested a couple of portable battery devices charged via USB and/or solar, the PowerTrekk didn’t immediately grab out attention, because we were unaware of the technology packed into the 244g (about 8.5 ounces) package we were holding. There’s an internal battery with a capacity of 1500mAh, a couple of buttons and lights, and the requisite USB out. What’s missing is the solar panel. That’s because the PowerTrekk uses hydrogen to generate electricity. Just add a tablespoon of water to the reservoir, pop the top back on, and you’re ready to juice up your GPS, phone, lantern, or camera.
While the process is that simple for the end-user, the tech behind it is anything but. SiGNa Chemistry, from New York, is a technology company that focuses on green solutions. SiGNa came up with sodium silicide, a powder that creates hydrogen when activated by water. They partnered up with myFC, which is a Swedish company dedicated to fuel cell technology. Their FuelCellSticker™ is a thin, flexible membrane that requires only hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity. (See www.myfuelcell.se for the full explanation) This marriage of technologies resulted in the tealight-shaped PowerPukk that sits below the battery and next to the water reservoir of the PowerTrekk, and silently sends hydrogen into a small chamber, where it efficiently produces electricity with nothing more than a little water as a byproduct. As futuristic as it sounds, this application of science should be available in the US by spring, 2012.
As you can see from the photo above, the battery and electronics can be easily separated from the base, for those afternoon outings when you might only want the battery as a backup, as opposed to needing one or more full charges, such as a weekend or longer camping trip. And while the the expected price tag of $229 (a three pack of Powerpukks should be about $12) is significantly more than a solar battery with similar capacity, not all of us live in ever-sunny Queensland, Australia. During the five or so months of Utah winter, we’ve had a hard time getting a full charge on our solar devices in one day. Our friends in England, with their two days of sunshine per year, understand this quite well. Even the larger panels that can be attached to a backpack still require a fair amount of sunshine. If you’re caving, or under the cover of a rainforest, that may not be possible, in which case the PowerTrekk makes a lot more sense than solar. And as David (our emergency preparedness specialist) pointed out, you may encounter an emergency at night, only to find your solar device with a dead battery, and no chance of being able to charge it. Another opportunity for the PowerTrekk to shine, so to speak.
We’re looking forward to an opportunity to put one to the test soon enough. In the meantime, check out www.industrialrev.com for more info.