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Power Technology

Ultracapacitor LED Flashlight Charges In 90 Seconds 131

Posted by timothy
from the doubles-as-a-stun-gun dept.
Iddo Genuth writes "The California based company 5.11 Tactical has recently introduced a new innovative flashlight — 'Light For Life' UC3.400. Unlike regular flashlights requiring constant battery changing this new LED torch offers a rechargeable battery that can be recharged in as little as 90 seconds using ultracapacitor technology. Various military and rescue units might benefit from this new development, ensuring them a light source at all times."
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Ultracapacitor LED Flashlight Charges In 90 Seconds

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  • 90 seconds! (Score:5, Funny)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @03:31PM (#26064423) Homepage Journal

    ensuring them a light source at all times.

    Except those 90 seconds.

    In which you will be eaten by a grue.

    • by click2005 (921437) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @03:38PM (#26064531)

      Yeah and it'll be like every PC FPS with a flash light (HL2/F.E.A.R etc) where it lasts 30 seconds at a time.

    • But you don't understand. This will be a back up for my PrincetonTec Eos, PrincetonTec Quad, Photon Light, two Mag flashlights, and my wife's Mag Solitaire and Photon Light. I'll show that Grue who's boss!
    • ensuring them a light source at all times.

      Except those 90 seconds.

      In which you will be eaten by a grue.

      I come on. Is it really that likely?

      • In which you will be eaten by a grue.

        I come on. Is it really that likely?

        It depends. It needs to be pitch black. The LEDs from your router would drive it off.

      • by hawk (1151)

        >I come on. Is it really that likely?

        We regret to inform you that the rest of this post is unavailable, as the author was eaten by a grue.

        hawk

    • Re:90 seconds! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Elder Entropist (788485) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @04:33PM (#26065365)

      Except those 90 seconds.

      In which you will be eaten by a grue.

      You should still be fine if you don't move more than once during those 90 seconds. You have to move twice in the dark to get eaten by a grue.

      • by scribblej (195445)

        Only if the lights go out. If you walk into the dark, you're boned.

        > GO NORTH

        It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

        > SHAKE FLASHLIGHT

        The shaking only attracts the grue! You are boned!

        Game over. You have achieved 1 of a possible bazillion points.

      • by CaseyB (1105)

        No, waiting also attract grues. You need to find a way to prevent time from passing, which is tricky in real life.

    • Keep one flashlight in the charger, and one at-the-ready. That'll keep them Grues away, until a flashlight breaks, of course.

    • by Java Pimp (98454)

      May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

  • What a bright idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Brilliant! -- GENERATION 667: The first time you see this, copy it into your sig on any forum and add 1 to the generation.
      • by CnlPepper (140772)

        I wonder how intelligent the search and collection algorithm will be.....

        GENERATION 28: The first time you see this, copy it into your sig on any forum and add 1 to the generation. Then subtract 2.

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @03:31PM (#26064429)
    Slashvertisement, anyone?
  • by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @03:33PM (#26064473) Homepage Journal

    TFA says it's a $170 flashlight. It's got a lifetime warranty, but I always lose flashlights before they fail on me.

    What I want to know is, how quickly does it self-discharge? It doesn't do me any good to have it charge in 90 seconds if I don't need it until the power goes out.

    • by Feanturi (99866) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @03:43PM (#26064619)
      I paid $10 for a wind-up flashlight that appears to have the same style of 3-LED array as this one. It's nice and bright, requires about 1 minute of winding to provide 15 minutes of full illumination, with less-bright light available after that. Considering that I never need anything other than a working pair of hands to charge it, I think the one I've got is much better for ensuring there will always be light when I need it. In a power outage, or out in a tent somewhere, a 90-second DC charge time doesn't do me any good at all.
      • These two technologies are not mutually exclusive.

        • Patents (Score:3, Funny)

          by tepples (727027)

          These two technologies are not mutually exclusive.

          Except perhaps if their respective patent holders refuse to cross-license to each other.

          • There are 4 billion Crank, squeeze, shake and twist flashlights out there. I'm pretty certain there is some way of doing it that would get around someone's patent.

            • Fleshlight's technology still doesn't seem to be used for illumination purposes. I'm sure they could harness that and power most large metropolitan areas.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by peragrin (659227)

        Well both of my flashlights only require a regular shaking. The motion is something most slashdotters are good at anyways.
        Led, a couple of capacitors, and a easy charge method works well

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Gary (9413)

        I do some work as a volunteer officer and the flashlights you get for $10 just don't compare. Most police-style flashlights are built much more ruggedly and are significantly brighter. When you find yourself facing a hostile assailant with nothing but a flashlight in your hand it's nice to know that the flashlight can function as an object for self defense if necessary, not to mention break-and-rake on car and house windows. Also the extra brightness is a safety feature too. Obviously searching a dark area

        • by onkelonkel (560274) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:28PM (#26066971)
          One of my favorite old detective stories described a cop's 6 cell mag lite like this "except for the fact that it lit up when you pressed a button, it would not have been out of place at the battle of Agincourt"
          • by jcnnghm (538570)

            I once heard that the US Southern Border patrol, in their search for race-independent terminology, started referring to illegal immigrants crossing the border as "thunks", because that's kind of what it sounds like when you hit one with your flashlight.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        never need anything other than a working pair of hands to charge it

        I only have 1 functioning hand...

    • As long as it lasts half as long as the batteries in my Surefire, I'd be happy. After a couple packs of those you've pretty much paid for the flashlight all over again. That thing is bright though, enough to feel it on the back of your hand from half a meter away.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Consider yourself a fool for spending money like that.

        Inexpensive solution [ebay.com]

        I bought a set of these for my SureFire and would never go back. They have about the same capacity and have lasted me a few dozen recharges with no apparent capacity problems.

        The funny thing, of course, is that police departments have public funding and wouldn't think twice about ordering thousands of CR123 cells.

        • by TFGeditor (737839)

          The real value I see in this setup is in Fire/EMS service.

          We have rechargeable Streamlight flashlights in al lthe apparatus on the fire department where I am a volunteer (EMS). The problem is that the lights stay on the chargers in the apparatus all the time, so the batteries really take a beating. With this ultracapacitor setup, all the problems associated with constant charging, partial discharge then recharge, etc. are resolved.

          I plan to get one for evaluation, and if it makes the grade, persuading my de

      • by greenlead (841089)
        If you are paying more than $1.75 / cell, you are buying from the wrong place. You can get them direct from Surfire for $1.75 /cell and from BatteryJunction (Titanium) for $1.00 / cell.
    • by dfm3 (830843)

      how quickly does it self-discharge?

      TFA says that it provides light for up to 90 minutes. But it uses a capacitor to store charge, so I imagine it could discharge very rapidly under the wrong conditions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nizo (81281) *

        This thing could be really awesome if you were holding it when you walked outside in the rain.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        how quickly does it self-discharge?

        TFA says that it provides light for up to 90 minutes. But it uses a capacitor to store charge, so I imagine it could discharge very rapidly under the wrong conditions.

        I think you are shorting him on the shocking details of ultra capacitor discharge.

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        TFA says that it provides light for up to 90 minutes. But it uses a capacitor to store charge, so I imagine it could discharge very rapidly under the wrong conditions.

        So it doubles as a taser? Bonus!

        Well, except that you'd then be in the dark with an only possibly incapacitated angry assailant.

      • Sounds like there might be some military applications after all.

        I can see using this for a few things,

        a full discharge at once to blind an opponent,
        flash tanning machine- use microwaves for extra points,(instant popcorn anyone?)
        portable painfield generator,
        perhaps an application in a portable HERF or EMP gun to freeze or disable IEDs,
        self contained tazer darts, no need for messy wires, and you can reload from a clip,
        laserguns that charge the ultra-capacitors

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pz (113803)

      TFA says it's a $170 flashlight. It's got a lifetime warranty, but I always lose flashlights before they fail on me.

      What I want to know is, how quickly does it self-discharge? It doesn't do me any good to have it charge in 90 seconds if I don't need it until the power goes out.

      There's a really simple answer to this: use high-quality non-rechargeable batteries in your it-must-work-when-the-power-goes-out flashlight and change them once every few years. You can get Lithim chemistry AA batteries that have a claimed shelf life of over 10 years.

      Then, use a separate flashlight with rechargeable batteries for when you just need it for a few minutes and can wait for a recharge, or can tolerate slightly-flat batteries.

      The ultracapacitor flashlights are a very costly solution to a problem

      • by sjames (1099)

        I keep a combination power flashlight on my window sill. It has a solar cell in it which keeps it charged up and ready when it's needed immediately. It also has a hand crank to recharge it for continued use. It also has a radio so I can find out when the power is expected back on.

        I suspect the flashlight in TFA is more targeted to emergency services where presumably they will have a rapid charger in their vehicle and keep it standby charged at all times.

    • by PMuse (320639)

      TFA wrote: Furthermore, the new flashlight is priced at $170; although this might not be suitable for private use, military organizations, police units and search and rescue teams might . . . be conned into replacing a cheap, widely available, reliable technology with an expen$$$ive, proprietary one.

      How many conventional rechargeable lights would $170 buy? How hard would it be to keep at least one charged at all times? Would they have a 2-hour limit?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A bunch, but the cost is a secondary consideration in a lot of circumstances. Surefire has long been selling handheld lights at even higher prices. Even their small personal incandescents were in the $100 after they started enforcing their dealer MAP agreements.

        There are plenty of field applications where a person can't carry $170 worth of Wal-Mart flashlights, but needs something that stay lit for a while, recharge quickly, and is durable.

        • by Aranykai (1053846)

          Try Coast LED Lenser lights. I have three, all of which can be found at retailers for less than $60 USD.

          They have one that will run 83 lumens for 5 hours on three AAA's. Compared to 90 minutes of 90 lumens, that's a reasonable sacrifice imho.

          • I have and their switches are nowhere near as reliable as, say, Surefire. And they don't resist water as well. And the bodies of the lights are not remotely as durable. And I question the accuracy of their lumen ratings.

            If you've not handled a (aluminum) Surefire light in person, try one. Very few people actually need that particular level of build quality for any reason other than satifying their flashlight geek needs, but the difference should be immediately obvious.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Honestly this has no use.

      EMT and Other emergency setups have a CRAPLOAD of flashlights at the command station. if you need to charge your 90 second recharging flashlight, it takes longer than the 2.2 seconds to grab a fresh one off the LiION charger stand.

      and at $170 it better have over 1,000,000CP output.

      • The technology has obvious weaponlight applications.

        You can't put a shake powered light on an M4, you don't just go grab another off a charging stand when your light goes out, and you don't typically need that many cp.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Ultracapacitors have very low self-discharge rates. Lower than most battery technologies.

      • Lower? Try almost none - they are caps! Problem is the converter circuitry for voltage/current conditioning. But I hope they have implemented a very simple mechanical switch just between the ultracap and said circuitry, instead of relying on some fancy-ass electronic switch.

        • by inflex (123318)

          Ultracaps still exhibit leaky, just obviously not as bad as things like standard electrolytes.

          A lithium-ion polymer battery will retain its charge for longer than an ultracap (60~80% of charge after 12 months vs 25% of an ultracap).

          As for the switches, they probably use a magnet + reed-switch, simple, effective and zero standby losses :)

  • As long as it can handle high heat, repeated drops to hard surfaces and into water, occasionally containing corrosive chemicals. And as long as they can be charged from 12 volts DC, and aren't heavier than a hand held radio. It needs to have a large button on it too, gloves and all that.

    Preferably a blue or red LED as well, so it'll cut through the smoke.

    Law enforcement would have to deal with practically the same situation.

    • by Eg0Death (1282452) *
      5.11 targets most of their products for law enforcement and other para-military usage. I receive email and catalogs from them frequently. Since I'm no longer in a law enforcement/para-military line of work, I can't justify buying all the nifty stuff they offer.
  • by B5_geek (638928) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @03:45PM (#26064643)

    VapourWare: Lights will be delivered on a first come, first serve basis in early 2009.
    90-minute runtime
    270 Lumens

    The claim is 270L for 1.5h, using three emitters. It looks from that close-up of the head that Crees are used, so most likely XR-Es. I'll use a rough 100L/W for my estimates.

    270L/3 = 90L per emitter

    90L corresponds to about 350mA at 3.2V (very roughly) from an XR-E.

    If*Vf*emitters*time = energy

    0.35A*3.2V*3*1.5h = 5.04Wh

    So, the supercap has about 5Wh in it (again, very roughly).

    The above assumes 270L at the emitter. Let's say it's 270L OTF, which would mean around 360L at the emitters.

    360/3 = 120L per emitter

    120L corresponds to, say, 450mA at 3.3V or so.

    0.45A*3.3V*3*1.5h = 6.7Wh

    This more optimistic estimate (in terms of both energy storage and lumen claims) puts us at a little under 7Wh for the supercap used in the light.

    Let's see what we get with a common AW 18650:

    3.7V*2.2Ah=8.14Wh

    So, this flashlight's power source has around 62% (pessimistically) or 82% (optimistically) of the energy of an 18650, but is several times the size.

    I think I'll pass on this one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jdong (1378773)
      Actually the reflector design makes me strongly suspect some 5mm's used. Even if they used premium quality 5mm emitters like the Nichia GS series, I doubt it'd have the same light output level of a Cree setup. Bottom line is parent is correct -- It takes me 5 seconds to swap out an 18650 or RCR123. Charging an integrated ultracapacitor for 90 seconds loses by any comparison.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Lumen ratings have become a marketing game and nearly everyone is quoting theoretical numbers rather than measured ones.

        Back in the incandescent days there wasn't as much advatage because most high end flashlight customers knew the ratings applied only to the first few seconds of operation. That and there wasn't enough competition among manufacturers to mean much. With constant voltage LED drivers lumens matter more, and now that there are several players in the emitter game, and making lights, things are g

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jdong (1378773)
          Oh without a doubt in my mind, from my experience with being a flashlightaholic (my collection of lights totals about $2000-ish), 5.11 is playing a few common low-grade marketing games here:
          (1) Advertising emitter lumens instead of out-the-front lumens. The number almost certainly doesn't account for losses in the reflector.
          (2) Advertising emitter lumens at peak driveable Vf and current. Almost every vendor except the Inova T-series and INFORCE (military) series does this -- they put a lumens number o
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      I don't think I'd ever like to go shopping with you... I think you'd remove all of the fun out of impulse buying! :)
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But you have to look at the big picture.

        Lets say during an average 3-hour shopping experience, you may look at 15 items, and impulsively buy 2 items. Each impulsive buy brings you 10 mG* of fun.

        2 * 10mG = 20mG / 3 hrs = 6.66 mG / hour of fun (roughly)

        Guessing from your slashdot ID, you're fairly young, probably just past being teenage (again, very roughly.) Based on your age, looking at items that you might buy, but not actually buying them should give you about 5 mG of fun per hour.

        6.66 mG + 5 mG = 11.66 m

    • I wonder how come I still don't see any flashlights based on the fast charging lithium titanate batteries, such as the SCiB? They should charge in five minutes and shine much longer than an equivalent sized capacitor model.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by captaindomon (870655)
      The AW 18650 is a lithium ion rechargeable battery. This is a capacitor system, they are a very different technology. Try to get an AW 18650 to recharge in 90 seconds. It will asplode.
      • Who cares about the battery charge time, I can refresh a primary cell light in about 15 seconds (20 if I have to take the new battery out of a blister pack). The whole advantage of rechargables is that they will be less expensive than primaries over time. At $170, you'd have to go through a lot of primaries to make it financially viable, and you could easily use a pair of swappable rechargeable batteries (one in the charger) to get the same effect for 1/5 the cost.

        Not saying it's not neat, it's just not us

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by archermadness (784657)

      So, this flashlight's power source has around 62% (pessimistically) or 82% (optimistically) of the energy of an 18650, but is several times the size.

      I think I'll pass on this one.

      Sure, it only has (according to your numbers) at most 82% of the charge capacity as an 18650 Li-Ion battery--but it can recharge in 90 seconds, and do that up to 50,000 times. That's something no battery can do. Plus, they shouldn't self-discharge (as that's typically an issue with batteries, not capacitors).

    • According to
      http://www.maxwell.com/ultracapacitors/products/large-cell/bcap3000.asp [maxwell.com]
      a commercial supercap is roughly 5.5 WH/Kg. So, sufficient Supercap to power this flashlight at your calculated 270 Lumen output is going to weigh roughly a kilogram, and take roughly a liter of volume.

      That's a really big flashlight.

    • by sslo (1143755)
      Moderators, this needs to be modded down because of the blatant falsity of the calculations.

      B5_Geek:

      First, before doing your equations, please go and read the flashlight maker's own data sheet, which is linked from the Future of Things article. It explains that the 270 lumen output is only for 15 minutes, and that a longer runtime is available at a greatly reduced light output.

      Thus all of your hasty, uninformed and premature numerical calculations are off by a factor of four.

      Please read the much

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sslo (1143755)
      Actually, your calculations are even further off than I thought. Rather than multiplying the 60 minute runtime (on low) by the 270 lumen brightness (on high) from the 5.11 data sheet, you have somehow posited 270 lumens for 1.5 hours - which seems to have come straight out of thin air.

      This means that your calculations are off by a factor of six.

    • by ckthorp (1255134)
      The other option is that they aren't actually using an ultra capacitor and are instead using a nano-phosphate LiIon. You can stuff a decent amount of charge into one of those in 90 seconds.
  • I had this idea years ago! I calculated out that i could do it, and it wouldn't be too expensive, but it would only last about 15 minutes per charge. I assume they have done better?
    -Taylor

    • Looks like you are about right... From a comment of TFA - "Great start, not quite there yet (12/10/08 - 16:41 - by Robert B.) The manufacturer\'s data sheet states 15 minutes output at 270 lumens on high (67 lumen-hrs), or 60 minutes at 90 lumens on low (90 lumen-hrs). From this, I\'d estimate that on low the device draws approximately 1 watt from the ultracap, with each LED each operating at 0.3 watt at around 100 lumens per watt, with roughly 90% DC-DC converter efficiency. This is 1 watt-hour from
      • Looks like you are about right...

        From a comment of TFA -

        "Great start, not quite there yet (12/10/08 - 16:41 - by Robert B.)

        The manufacturer\'s data sheet states 15 minutes output at 270 lumens
        on high (67 lumen-hrs), or 60 minutes at 90 lumens on low (90
        lumen-hrs).

        From this, I\'d estimate that on low the device draws
        approximately 1 watt from the ultracap, with each LED each operating
        at 0.3 watt at around 100 lumens per watt, with roughly 90% DC-DC
        converter efficiency.

        This is 1 watt-hour from the ultracap.

        On high, this device would draw about 4 watts from the ultracap,
        with a little over 1 watt reaching each LED, given a slightly lower
        LED efficiency at the higher brightness and a significantly lower
        converter efficiency, possibly a bit over 75%.

        Compare this with
        two AA NiMH cells (at 3 watt-hours each) that together store 6
        watt-hours.

        Ultracaps are a breakthrough technology, but the
        energy storage density is still pretty low, as we see here. It will be
        a few years before ultracaps become the most satisfactory overall
        choice for flashlights."

        Yeah, I got the idea from seeing that some company sells ultracaps that are the same form factor as D-Cell batteries, so it would be perfect for a maglite mod... If the capacity were there. And if I spend $180 on a flashlight it had better be BRIGHT. If those are only 1 Watt LEDs, you can buy similarly-equipped regular flashlights for $50. I'd rather just buy an LED Mag-Lite and two of those off-the-shelf rechargable battery packs for Mag Lites. I can swap out a charged pack faster than the ultracapacitor l

  • ...I have finally solved the problem of powerful, easily rechargeable bicycle light. No worries about self-discharge due to humidity, no NiMH batteries to swap and recharge daily... just ride the hell outta my bike in any weather condition while illuminating the road really propa' (maybe a tad too strong, even...) and then recharge it in a minute and a half at home - and since it's a cap, I can do this ad aeternum!

    Fuck yeah!!!!

    • by Synchis (191050)

      You know, technically *you* didn't solve it. :)

      You simply found an application for a pre-made solution. :)

      • er... okay, true.

        That said, I'm sure the USPTO would grant me a patent nonetheless.

        I just checked the mounting bracket, and it doesn't really work for what I had in mind. I'd have to fabricate something for the handlebar, that would somehow snap onto that bracket.

  • The biggest problem I have had with cycling during the winter is the ridicolously low capacity of NiMH cells at sub-zero temperatures (I sometimes cycle at -10C). In addition to a lower capacity during usage (and much higher self-discharge), the NiMH cells would break and degrade very quickly during the winter.

    I'm glad we have supercaps now. No matter how much lower capacity they have, it sure beats the 15-20 minutes of useful time I could ever suck out of the NiMH batteries in the winter.

  • Now I won't have to go stumbling around in the dark looking for fresh batteries next time there's a power failure!
    • Agreed. With my current flashlight I have to change the darn batteries every 4-6 hours! It's bankrupting me! I tried the crank/shake flashlights, but people kept snatching them away and smashing them.
  • If it comes with a charger for in the car it could be useful.
    Contractors and cops would keep it plugged in, while driving and have it for inspections etc.
    $170 is rather high, but a load of lithium that you are keeping out of the landfill might be worth it.

  • They built their business on pants. [511tactical.com] Amazing product - comfy, incredibly durable, excellent pocket design, and don't look bad in any circumstances. I don't think I've worn any other pants for years.

    Special note for the Slashdot crowd: They're avaliable in waist sizes up to 54 inches. :-)

    • Wouldn't the pants be kinda smelly by now if you haven't worn any other pants for years?
      • by daybot (911557) *

        Wouldn't the pants be kinda smelly by now if you haven't worn any other pants for years?

        He bought the optional Washing Station that washes the Tactical Pants in 90 seconds.

  • What LEDs does that thing use? How many Lumen does it put out?

    I will pass and stick to my Fenix P3D. It lasts 65 hours at 12 Lumen or 6 1/2 at 210 (iirc). After that time, it will still burn for a few days (I got bored and threw away the old batteries after two days of contant burning). It has 5 output modes. It is made from aluminium, water-tight and as large as your thumb. Still, those 210 make it, quite literally, a searchligt. Oh, and the CR123A it uses have a shelf life of ten years.

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