South Korean developers have adapted 2,000-year-old battery technology for modern warfare.
The device, known as MetalCell, is a backup power source that runs on sodium and can keep a laptop charged for more than four hours, its maker says. The design is relatively simple: a small, ruggedized box with magnesium plates inside. If an electrical gadget — anything from a computer to a flashlight — runs out of energy, a soldier on the battlefield could pour saltwater into the MetalCell and use the device as an emergency power source.
Soldiers in the field have salt in their Meal, Ready-to-Eat packages. Urine could also be used to power the device, says Art Morgan, CEO of the Northern Virginia-based company SEG Inc., which represents the product in the United States.
The sodium reacts with the magnesium to produce low-voltage power.
“You can pack away the device and let it sit for years until you need it,” Morgan says.
The concept is similar to ancient technology, known as the Bagdad battery, that some anthropologists believe was developed in Iraq thousands of years ago. Nobody knows how these batteries were used.
The standard MetalCell model costs about $200 and can be recharged with salt water until the magnesium plates deteriorate. The company is also marketing disposable models that are cheaper — about $120 — and come with salt tablets.