Pocket-sized fuel cell charges phones for two weeks

Brookstone will be the first retail launch partner for Lilliputian Systems Inc. (LSI’s) portable charging system. Brookstone will be responsible for the marketing, promotion, distribution and sale of the product through their various distribution channels such as catalog, Brookstone.com, and retail stores including airport and mall locations. Lilliputian will be responsible for the product design, development, and manufacturing. The product will be branded and sold under the Brookstone® brand.CNET – Fuel cell maker Lilliputian Systems today announced that Brookstone will be the first retailer to carry its portable USB power source, which will be sold under Brookstone’s brand. The fuel cell device is about the size of a thick smartphone, and the lighter fluid-filled cartridges are about the same size as a cigarette lighter.

Lilliputian’s patented Silicon Power Cell™ technology, originally developed at the world renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) Microsystems Technology Laboratory (“MTL”), includes a chip based power generator and is fueled by recyclable high energy fuel cartridges. The technology is reliable, safe (approved for use on aircraft) and environmentally friendly (6x more efficient/lower carbon footprint than using a wall charger). When compared to Lithium-Ion battery alternatives, Lilliputian’s solution provides a 5—10x improvement in volumetric energy density (energy density by volume) and 20—40x improvement in gravimetric energy density (energy density by weight) at a fraction of the cost.

Juice in a box. Lilliputian’s portable fuel cell can deliver between 10 to 14 full charges for an iPhone with one replaceable cartridge. (Credit: Lilliputian Systems)

People will be able to buy refills and fuel cells online, through Brookstone catalogs, or at stores. When the fuel cartridges are empty, they can be recycled through municipal recycling programs, Ramani said.

Lilliputian expects the first customers will be early technology adopters but then the appeal of portable power will attract more people, such as travelers, college students, and even teenagers who spend a lot of time with portable gaming machines. “Anyone who wants to be liberated from sticking a phone into a wall outlet,” he said.

Unique technology inside the fuel cell allows for longer charge time than previous portable fuel cells give, Ramani said.

The company is the first to deposit a solid oxide fuel cell membrane onto a silicon wafer, he explained. Investor Intel has retrofitted a fab in Hudson, Massachusetts, to make specially structured silicon chips with Lilliputian’s membrane imprinted on them.

“The problem of all the other (previous) devices, which usually used methanol or sodium borohydride, is that when they actually built the product, it was not any better than carrying a lithium ion battery around,” he said.

Lilliputian’s fuel cell will be able to fully charge, for example, an iPhone 4 between 10 and 14 times with one cartridge, Ramani said. That can mean a couple weeks of use for many people, he noted.

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