Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Bottomless Battery For Your Smartphone and Tablet

Mobile technology is the way we stay connected on the go. WiFi hotspots combined with 3G or 4G cellular give us bottomless connectivity. Now if we only had bottomless power to go along with it.

The Solio Bolt basking in the Sun as it recharges it's internal battery...The bane of any technology not tethered to a wall outlet is the battery. Batteries are always going dead long before the day ends. It’s bad news when you are out in the field or at the restaurant table without the wall outlet. When the power in your device fades, it’s lights out. This is why heavy users have taken to toting an external battery to recharge their fading device or substitute for the internal battery. The only problem is that if you are out and about long enough you end up with two dead batteries instead of one.

What you really need is a battery that never runs out of power. Wait! Why, that’s perpetual motion! It’s technical heresy!

No, it’s clever engineering. What Solio has done is create a battery that recharges itself. It’s not perpetual motion because it does draw in energy. It’s just doesn’t suck it from a wall socket. The Solio Bolt gets its charge from the Sun.

When you think of solar energy, you’re probably imagining an acre of mirrors in the desert or a field of panels on the roof of the office. Those are solar power, alright. They’re what’s called large scale solar. There’s also such a thing as small scale solar. It’s been pretty much ignored up to now as a niche technology suitable only for applications that need power at any price. Emergency phones, remote monitoring, satellites, and so on have used small scale solar power for decades. What’s new is the mashup of solar cells, a high capacity lithium battery and control electronics that’s small enough to fit in your pocket, yet powerful enough to completely recharge your smartphone or tablet.

The enabling technologies are high efficiency solar cells and a 2,000 mAh Li-Poly battery. Battery technology has really advanced since the days when all you could get was nickel cadmium cells that couldn’t hold much of a charge and died long before your calculator did. These new lithium based cells can disappear in the palm of your hand yet pack 2 Ampere hours of juice. That’s a lot of juice, electrically speaking.

So, here’s how it works. Everything’s contained in the palm-size plastic package. You swing it open about its central axis to reveal two solar panels. There’s a hole at the axis that is just the right size for a pencil. Stick in a pencil so that the Solio will be propped up and facing the Sun. Then do something else like eat lunch or read a book. While Solio is basking, the battery is quietly charging. No line cords required.

We got one of these at home. When it’s not needed, it hangs by a cord in a window. A red LED in the back lights to indicate that the battery is charging on solar power. You can push a button at any time to get a reading of how much charge it’s gained. One flash means 10%, two flashes means 20% and so on. Yes, it takes all day to fully charge in sunlight, but what else is it doing? Just leave the Solio where it can see the Sun and it will top off before you know it. No having to remember to plug-in to charge that battery. The crew at Solio puts theirs on an outside window ledge. They get more sunlight than through a window. You can use that pencil that’s propping the unit up as a sundial to aim for best exposure. When there is no line showing, the alignment is optimal.

The Solio Bolt comes with a USB connector that you can plug your iPhone or iPad cable into to grab a charge. There’s even a special Apple mode that optimizes charging for Apple products. Everything else gets standard USB charging rates. If you need to recharge your Solio fast or it’s dark outside (night owls) you can recharge the battery through a USB wall charger or from a laptop. Non-eco friendly but effective.

You might think that something like this would really work well in the bush and you’d be right. In fact, it is so ideal for remote areas like rural Kenya, that Solio runs a solar leasing business there. Now households can have power for lights, radios and cell phone charging and avoid burning kerosene indoors at night. It will work just as well at your fishing cabin or wherever you pitch a tent.

Have you seen the light now? Would this solution meet your needs? Learn more and get your Solio Bolt quickly and easily. For a bottomless battery, it’s eminently affordable.

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