FUEL CELLS

The Medis “24-7 Power Pack” claims to be the first fuel cell for personal use. Squeeze it to start the chemical reaction and it will power a cell phone, flashlight, radio and many other portable devices for anywhere from several hours to several days.

Fuel cells have been on the horizon for quite a while now. The first one was demonstrated by a Welsh scientist in 1838, and magazines have carried gee-whiz stories ever since, speculating that fuel cells in the basement would someday power our homes. This hasn’t happened of course, but it still may. Some buses in Switzerland have been running on fuel cells for several years. The Germans recently built a fuel-cell powered submarine capable of staying submerged for weeks. Things are moving along.

What ordinary individuals can get right now is the Medis Power Pack. It’s about the size of a deck of cards and twice as thick. Inside are chemical reactants that come together when you squeeze the pack to break a thin film. There are a dozen different types of materials used to produce the reaction that generates electricity and most of them have just water and carbon dioxide as wastes.

The Medis Power Pack produces 3.6 to 5.45 volts and can generate up to one watt of power. It can run continuously for about 20 hours. The cost seems modest: $23 for the cell plus $12 for the cable that connects the cell to most devices. You really need the cable, so call it $35 for the whole deal. We wish we had one when we lived in Southern California, where power outages were frequent. You can get the cell and more information at their web site “Poweritanywhere.com.”

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