By Frank Ross
Technology has become such an integral part of our daily lives, it’s hard to remember what life was like without the intrusion of that familiar ring-tone announcing a cell phone call, text message or email needing attention. While some may feel these devices are overwhelming or unnecessary, for today’s active lifestyles personal communications devices are mandatory.
Now that high-tech devices have broken down the barriers which kept us tethered to a physical location, conducting business or checking the latest sports news in a coffee shop, beach side resort or golf course is considered the norm, and those who don’t the “abnormal.” The one challenge all of these savvy communicators face is the dreaded tone or flashing symbol announcing the unthinkable – LOW BATTERY!
Today, thanks to the highly conductive and flexible nature of copper, a low-battery warning doesn’t have to mean the end of your remote connectivity. The Atlanta-based company Reware has developed a portable charging system that uses the innovative copper-based CIGS (Copper-Indium-Gallium Sulfide) solar film. Reware’s introduction of the “Juice Bag,” which is available in several popular styles, has the potential to solve this problem and provide unlimited mobility. The bag gets its name from its ability to “juice up” or recharge your favorite electronic devices. This multifunction bag features a built-in electronic charging station that can recharge small electronic devices, including satellite, cell phones, GPS units, PDAs, iPods, MP3 players and digital cameras.
To accommodate different lifestyles, the Reware Juice Bags are sold as backpacks, totes and messenger bags, convenient for travelers, campers, hikers, fishermen, students and business professionals.
The Reware Juice Bag weighs the same as an average backpack and comes equipped with a built-in universal socket into which a variety of devices can be plugged. A light-weight, copper-based solar panel located on the outside of the bag captures the sun’s energy and charges the system as you go about your daily activities. The time it takes to charge an electronic device is equivalent to the time it takes using a standard electrical outlet— between two and six hours.
Henry Gentenaar, a managing partner at Reware, said they carry the largest selection of solar bags using CIGS technology and, “Thanks to the sturdy composition of the copper-based solar film, Reware bags are high quality and durable.”
The use of CIGS technology in this product not only highlights the progress of solar panel design, but also illustrates the significant role that copper is playing in the advancement of mainstream solar panel usage.
“The great thing about using copper-based panels is that they are very powerful and rugged. We chose copper-based technology because it’s reliable,” Gentenaar added.
For years, copper has been the metal of choice for HVAC, plumbing and building and construction needs because of its durability, recyclability and thermal and electrical conductivity.
“This is really exciting new technology, and it’s no surprise that copper is an enabler in it,” said Bob Weed, vice president of OEM for the Copper Development Association. “In today’s mobile world, a portable electronic charging station is a must have for anyone who wants to stay connected.”
Farhad Moghadam, CEO of Ascent Solar, a Colorado-based company which produces copper-based CIGS solar film, said that the copper solar technology’s efficiency makes it ideal for solar backpacks. Moghadam explained that the use of copper cells carries the benefit of weight reduction, which is a big concern for manufacturers of solar back packs. The thin nature of the copper-based material (only a few microns thick) makes them lightweight and portable, and surprisingly durable for outdoor recreational activities.
“Copper’s electrical and thermal conductivity is what makes it so valuable in increasing the efficiency of CIGS solar technology,” said Moghadam.
The copper film can be manufactured at lower temperatures than other materials, decreasing the manufacturing cost. Solar backpacks for consumers would never have been possible without the decrease in cost of manufacturing attributed to copper.
Several companies, including Sunload and Clear Blue Hawaii, are incorporating copper-based solar panels in their own versions of portable electronic charging stations for the consumer. Along with the solar backpack line, Reware plans to launch portable charging mats that fold to the size of a magazine and can be unfolded to create a charging station. These are popular in military applications, and will soon be available to the public. Gentenaar plans to have the product launched in early 2010.
See the full line of Reware products at their online store: Reware Solar Bags