Power Packery

This is quite a neat little thing


It’s a butane-powered fuel-cell… yet to be launched… allegedly due to be available this year.

The trouble with hydrocarbons is that they’re simply far better storers of energy than any other batteries. The thing above takes butane (the stuff that goes into cigarette lighters) cartridges that (also allegedly) will cost a couple of dollars each, and are good to charge a phone about 14 times.

As the Dvice blogger says though – the hell with proprietary cartridges – they’re just trying to create an artificial scarcity (I mean that is pretty much the main thing that “proprietary” is for)… so if this does come out, we need to hack it pronto-quick to use off-the-shelf fuel. The hell with patents; the hell with artificial scarcity. Businesses dependent on monopolies need to go away.

I think these things (for a while at least) are the future though… sans micro-nukes, the easiest to imagine ideal solution is some sort of solar->storage device. If I had to guess, I’d say that this will be achieved using gen-eng algae (that grows like the clappers) that has been genetically tampered with so it produces some sort of hydrocarbon (or just H2) that can be used in a fuel cell. Hydrocarbons (of the liquid variety) are easier to handle than pure hydrogen though… so I’d be guessing they’ll be the way things go.

The reason this is important (well one of the reasons) is that it will radically improve what robots are capable of… especially the flying ones.

If you google “fuel cell” and look at the pictures though, there are dozens of “existing” products, with varying degrees of ephemerality. I’m guessing the major problem with the fuel cell above (and the probable need for cartridges) is that it needs ludicrously pure butane. Or something. Maybe I’ll be wrong – but 1/2 the things I’ve talked about on this blog have never actually happened. If you can’t buy it on Ebay, it probably doesn’t exist.

A name that turns up again and again (showing promise etc) though is Angstrom… who used to (apparently) sell fuel-cells on their web-site, but who appear now to have been bought by Bic (who make cigarette lighters) so who knows what will come of that… hard to say. Seems like a good partnership, but the amount of money Angstrom sold for doesn’t really reflect the scale of what is possible I don’t think.

There’s also a Swedish company (who’s designs I like)…


…where you can (apparently) buy them… which is a rarity with new-tech it seems – so many of these things appear to have websites that go on about “technology” and “investors” and “patents” without getting to the actual point of where you can buy the fucking things… which as far as I’m concerned reeks of Ponzi. If your customers/audience are “investors” then you’re not a business. At least this thing is a business.

The trouble with it though is that it appears to give only 2 charges per cartridge… so it costs €200 for the device, then €1 per phone charge after that. Ok if you’re in The Outback I guess… but I think what we’re really looking for is Replacing The Grid. Replacing wire.

So if I was looking for a tectonic drift here, it would be the de-wirification of electricity… The Internet Of Things is kindof about going off-grid in every respect, apart from information… because information is a different sort of grid – a decentralised web. It’s quite weird… it’s like artifacts that were (because of mycelia-like wires) kindof a single organism (with very very limited brains)… are evolving into distinct organisms, but with a single super-brain… which is a machine/human symbiote.

5 Comments » for Power Packery
  1. jp says:

    ok, so how do we make it? I dont have 200 pounds or uros or dollers, i dont have any money for that matter. But i do have enginuity and a shit ton of “waste” from the endless american consumption. If i know how to make one of these and what parts are nessisary, then all i need is time. eventually someone will make some POS consumer product with some vitamans that i can hack apart and use. Give us knowledge and we will find our way

  2. Nick Taylor says:

    Stand on the shoulders of giants?

    I’m guessing the easiest way is to buy one of these things (the butane version), reverse-engineer it, then make non-proprietary capsules… something that can be filled with an ordinary from-the-shop butane canister.

    The tricky bit will be the membrane (If I’ve got this right) that is at the heart of the fuel-cell. That’s the vitamin part… and I’m not sure how you’d do that – not being a chemist etc. I’m guessing that everything is pretty simple, apart from that one part.

    Developing an open-source fuel-cell is going to cost though… more than $200… unless you can find a friendly fab-lab to help.

  3. “machine/human symbiote” Seems that way doesn’t it.

  4. jp says:

    Who do we consult to learn about the membrane and the proccess of making one? Is there a DIY chem site out there? There MUST be enthusiests. I have been looking to convert energy to electricity, sterling, gasifier, treadmill wind turbine etc. But this is a new one. I can grow plants and make ethenol, i can use waste wood gasifier heat to convert plastics back to fuel, i can grow algea and produce biofuel, but i have never heard of fuel converting direct to elect by chem.
    Btw, when i say “i can” i mean i seen it on the interweb, that is my database. I have never done any of this (not even grow a plant) but “i can” because someone else has, and they have documented it. As a carpenter and electronics enthusiast i know that i can do anythiing, as long as i have the knowledge, and otherpeople wastes.

  5. Nick Taylor says:

    re: consultation over fuel-cell membrane tech… no idea, but given the current state of “IP”, I imagine it’ll be a case of breaking copy-monopoly and reverse-engineering something.

    Even though the vast majority of R&D spending is state-funded, it tends to go into private institutions who try to extract monopoly rents on it, from the people who actually paid for it. In the case of this particular tech, it’s from a 10 year old MIT spin-off company… so the lines are somewhat blurred. If (as you say) there must be enthusiasts, then I’m guessing that they’ll be findable via google.

    re: “I can” : knowledge is not the same as experience alas :) … in my experience.