In our current gadget-centric culture, one limiting factor for mobile devices is the capacity of the batteries that power them, and while we haven't seen any massive improvements in battery technology (yet) which would allow us to go for days between charges, mobile solar chargers and battery backup systems seem to be the only solutions (well, other than to actually stop using them so much).
Wind turbines are a viable clean energy solution, but most of the innovations in wind energy tend to be on the large scale, and since those devices aren't exactly portable, they don't lend themselves to mobile device charging. But one forthcoming invention may allow us to harness the power of the wind with a micro turbine, in order to charge our smartphones and tablets and other USB devices.
Although the efficacy of small wind turbines, especially vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT), is often debated, and the designs dismissed as not being worth their cost or manufacturing resources, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to improve them or apply them to niche uses. And this latest entry to the VAWT field is indeed a niche use, in that it takes aim at the personal and portable market, and aims to remove one of the pain points of mobile device users.
The Trinity wind turbine (referred to as a "Portable Wind Turbine Power Station" due to its onboard battery) is designed to be portable enough to carry with you, yet powerful enough to provide clean electricity, and may be the harbinger of personal wind power devices.
Designed and built by Skajaquoda, a research group based in Minnesota, the Trinity features three aluminum legs that slide into the body of the turbine for storage and portability, and then expand to become a tripod for deploying the turbine. The device has three wind blades (a Savonius design) that can be folded into the body of the device for transport, and open up when deployed, which spin a 15W generator and charge a 15,000 mAh battery when the wind is blowing.
The Trinity, which is made from plastic and aluminum and weighs about 4 lb., measures 23" high when operating, and folds down into a 12" long cylinder for transport. According to its inventors, Einar Agustsson and Agust Agustsson, a fully working prototype of this micro wind turbine has been built, but in order to put it into production, they've turned to Kickstarter to raise the $50,000 to finish the final prototype and start the manufacturing process.
Backers at the $249 level will receive the first of the Trinity devices, and backers at the $399 level will get a limited edition version, available in their choice of one of five colors. The company estimates that the first of these micro wind turbines will be shipped to backers in January of 2015, with full scale production beginning in February of 2015.