I know, it sounds like one of those tiny ads found in comic books back in the 60s, along with X-ray goggles, itching powder, and hovercraft plans. By now, most consumers understand the First Law of Thermodynamics (even if they’ve never heard of it), which essentially states that when it comes to physics, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So how can you power your cell phone (or laptop or other mobile device) with a shot of water?
MyFC of Stockholm, Sweden, thinks it has the answer in the PowerTrekk, a new device that it will demonstrate at CES 2012 in Las Vegas next week. It produces power from water by adding it to sodium silicide powder (contained in a replaceable “PowerPukk”), which produces hydrogen gas. The hydrogen is turned into electrical energy by a bank of tiny fuel cells. These devices are less than 3 mm thick, and by-product emitted by the conversion process is just water vapor.
According to the company, the PowerTrekk is rated at 1000 mA at 5 volts and each PowerPukk is good for 4 Watt hours (Wh) of power. In addition, the device contains a 1600 mAh lithium-ion battery that you can recharge from an external power source or use as a buffer storage for the fuel cell output.
The result is a device that can provide instant power for a mobile phone or other portable device. Each PowerPukk should provide about enough power to recharge a typical phone. The company has not yet announced ship dates or pricing.
So it appears that we may soon have practical personal fuel cells. Not only could this be a boon to the connected first-world knowledge workers away from their base of operations, it could also be a big step forward for third-world users who do not have access to a power grid at all.