The 'World's Smallest Hydropower Plant' Is an iPhone Charger

The latest, sleekest entrant into a kind of gadget we're calling End Times Tech.

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Mar 26 2015, 4:55pm

Image: ​Blue Freedom​

I have a soft spot for portable clean energy; gadgets like mobile solar and ​piezoelectric harvesters may seem a bit clunky now, but they brim with the promise of a world where we can generate a personal supply of sustainable power, on the go. They also emanate a faintly apocalyptic aura, and might appeal to the off-the-grid survivalists as much as they do ​distributed energy nerds. It's End Times tech, kind of.

Which explains the branding of the category's latest entrant, Blue Freedom. According to the company, their gadget is the "the world's smallest hydropower plant," and it's basically a tiny turbine you can toss into a stream to charge your iPhone. The ​Kickstarter just launched, and with 36 days left, it seems destined to blow past its $100,000 funding goal. 

The little turbine is 3D-printed, fits in a backpack, and can generate five watts of energy. Sure, it doesn't seem all that practical for anyone but hikers and fishers, and who knows if it even works as advertised—but it's undeniably kind of cool, and its hundreds of backers are evidence that there's both interest and a demand for clean energy gadgets. 

As the cost of panels has dropped, there's been a small profusion of portable solar device chargers—there's always a booth or two at consumer electronics shows filled with the lonely but increasingly viable-looking products. I'd like to see more like them; Blue Freedom is evidence we will. Bring on the post-apocalyptic electronics.