The HYmini wind turbine doesn't rely entirely on wind power.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Mechanics of Wind-turbine Chargers

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A wind turbine is a fairly simple device, at least in principle: It's a wind-powered electrical generator. First, it captures the kinetic energy (energy of movement) in wind -- this is the energy that spins the turbine blades. The energized blades spin a shaft inside the tower, and that shaft in turn spins an electrical generator. The generator takes the incoming kinetic energy and converts it to electrical energy.

Since a cell phone runs on electrical energy (in the form of a battery), a wind turbine can power it just like a wall outlet can. In both the Orange Wind Charger and the HYmini, the components are just like those of a full-blown wind tower, but they're made of lightweight plastic instead of steel and fiberglass. The blades are measured in inches instead of feet. And instead of sending its electricity to the power grid, it sends it to your cell-phone battery.

The HYmini and the Orange accomplish this task in slightly different ways, although the overall concept is the same. Each powers up a mobile device -- cell phone, MP3 player, digital camera, you name it -- using clean energy and without access to the power grid. In the Orange, that energy is all wind.

At just over 5 ounces (150 grams), the Orange charger is ideally suited to camping. It's made to fit in a backpack and then mount on top of a tent to capture wind. The turbine directly charges a battery located in the detachable control box, and then the battery charges your cell phone with a 0.5-watt output.

The HYmini is a smaller, one-piece unit that generates more power than the Orange -- up to 1.7 watts. This is because the HYmini doesn't rely entirely on wind power. In fact, wind is just an ancillary power source. The primary ones are a wall outlet, which charges up the HYmini before you go on your trip, and solar panel add-ons that you can attach when you're not speeding along on your bike.

On a bike? Yes -- or even snowboarding. The HYmini hopes you'll make you'll make your own wind.