Batteries are a really useful way to store energy, but their energy density in regards to both weight and volume is disappointing. In these regards, they really can’t compete with fossil fuels. Thus, [bryan.lowder] decided to see if he could charge a phone with fossil fuels as safely and harmlessly as possible.
Obviously, with many national grids relying on fossil fuels for a large part of their generation, most of us are already charging our phones with fossil fuels to some degree. However, the aim here was to do so more directly, without incurring transmission losses from the long runs through the power grid.
The system works by catalytically oxidizing so-called white camping fuel, which is closely related to the gasoline we run in our cars. This oxidation process generates heat but at sub-flame temperatures, thus avoiding the mess and danger of regular combustion. This heat is then used to power a thermoelectric generator (TEG) in much the same way as NASA relies on radioisotopes to do the same job.
The device emits fumes, but less than burning gasoline would do. There’s no fire involved, and it’s largely silent. The fuel itself is stored in a hip flask, with vapors passing through the catalytic material and heating the thermoelectric generator to around 180°C. A regulator then bumps the voltage output to 5V and passes it to a USB port for charging a phone.
[bryan.lowder] hasn’t provided details on the performance of the build, yet. We’re keen to see the numbers, as the low efficiency of TEGs would mean that quite a volume of fuel would likely be required to charge the phone.
We’ve seen liquid fuels touted before as a compact source of electricity, often in combination with fuel cells. The technique is yet to catch on en masse, but if you’re tinkering in this area, be sure to let us know!