The Fuel Cell in the Woods
Load a single PowerTrekk fuel puck, pour a little bit of water into the corresponding reservoir and you've got yourself 5 watts of power -- enough juice to fully recharge the average smartphone in the space of an hour and a half. It also works on other USB and mini-USB gadgets such as GPS devices and digital cameras.
Sure, the PowerTrekk isn't the only gadget on the market capable of filling your power meter back up. It's not the smallest or the cheapest. But fuel-cell technology brings with it a few key advantages. For starters, it's fairly light at 8.6 ounces (244 grams), so a little emergency power for your gadgets won't weigh you down. Another advantage it holds over competing charging systems is that it doesn't discharge power or degrade over time.
The PowerTrekk is slated for commercial release in fall of 2012, with an estimated price tag of $229.99. The single-use fuel pucks will run three for $11.99 [source: Industrial Revolution]. In the meantime, the product already has International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approval, so you'll have no problem bringing it on an airplane.
What does the future hold for this technology? MyFC and SiGNa hope to incorporate the technology into additional gadgets (SiGnA actually employed its sodium silicide fuel cell back in 2010 in an electric bicycle design). In time, they hope to help revitalize the fuel-cell industry itself, which lost serious steam in the early 2000s.
If successful, you can count on seeing similar fuel-cell systems integrated into a whole host of future mobile devices. In fact, Apple filed two patents back in 2010 related to very similar gadget-charging fuel-cell systems [source: Woyke].
In time, we may actually reach the point where a fuel puck and a little aqua in the tank is all it takes to embark on a cross-country road trip. Until then, at least we'll be able to recharge the phone.