Can a $2.50 gadget extend alkaline battery life by 800%?

The hell? I can only hope this is native advertising, because the alternative is that this idiocy got free publicity from boingboing. Maybe just un-post this?


When something like this is all over the 'net, as this is today, I think it’s important to add to the skeptical voices.


I don’t see any skepticism in your post, except buried in the “Red flag” note below the fold where the vast majority of your readers will never see it. Maybe just switch your lede on the main site to “No.”, as timquinn put it?


As much as I like laughing at absurd claims, this one seems like in may be possible. As far as I can tell there are no claims made that are flat out wrong. Now getting 8x life out of a battery probably could only happen on very specific devices that need a particular voltage and not much amperage, Most things would not get nearly that much benefit, but still, if it made the bat’s last just 2x that would be great. Also using this on a lithium rechargeable battery would probably effectively convert it to a single use disposable.


It might not affect battery life, but it will definitely make your audio devices higher fidelity especially when they come out with the gold version. :slight_smile:


[quote=“beschizza, post:1, topic:58807”]Here’s the patent.[/quote]No, no, no. That is a PUBLISHED PATENT APPLICATION. That is not a patent. The USPTO will publish just about anything with the appropriate fees. It is no more patented than John Quincy St. Clair’s Magnetic Monopole Spacecraft.

You can look up the application number at Patent Application Information Retrieval and see that it does not look like the patent will be granted anytime soon.


I am skeptical, and here is why:

There is a legitimate place for various voltage booster/regulator DC-DC converter widgets in the context of batteries:

Some use cases simply aren’t possible without them(eg, blue LEDs on a single battery without going for some more expensive and exotic chemistry, you just can’t get the 4+ volts they need without either a converter or stacking ~1.5v alkalines. They are also good if a device is supposed to be able to run from lithium primaries(up to about 1.7v in the same sizes as 1.5v alkalines), alkalines, and the ~1.2v NiCd and NiMH. Especially with multiple batteries in series, that can mean pretty substantial voltage differences.

However, there is a problem: your voltage booster is (in addition to taking a few percent for pure inefficiency in our fallen and heat-death-doomed world) going to be drawing more current from the battery. P=I*V, no getting around that. Batteries, though, tend to voltage-slump faster when drained harder(here’s [a representative datasheet][1]). Some chemistries are better than others(aside from being cheap, Lead-acid batteries have the virtue of being able to provide truly heroic surge currents, alkaline primary cells are on the feebler side).

So, I acknowledge that there may be situations where a widget has batteries that still have chemical energy; but isn’t running because the batteries have slumped below the minimum required voltage. In such a case, a DC-DC converter will be able to get additional runtime by boosting the voltage received by the device back up to within its operational range. However, the DC-DC converter will have to use a higher discharge current(since the device needs the same amount of power as before; but the voltage available is lower, I has to increase). The higher discharge current will cause the battery to slump further, which will require yet higher discharge current, which will exacerbate the slump, and the affair turns into a death spiral.

Low-drain devices(IR remotes are probably the canonical example) already get superb battery life, because they don’t use much energy and when they do use energy they draw at a discharge current well below the battery’s design capability. High drain devices are notoriously hard on alkalines, because their high discharge current drives the battery to slump almost immediately, and are better off on NiMH cells(where the relatively high self-discharge rate isn’t a big issue because the in-use discharge rate is so high anyway).

I suspect that there are some edge cases(arguably defective designs) where a relatively low-drain device is also super picky about voltage, and has some component, maybe a touchy microcontroller, that browns out more or less the moment the 1.5v batteries slump to 1.4 or 1.35. Such a device would be markedly improved by the addition of a DC-DC boost unit, even as an aftermarket bodge.

However, I’m skeptical that such devices are all that common: manufacturers know that alkalines slump as they discharge; and they also know that NiCd and NiMH rechargables don’t start at 1.5v anyway, and they generally don’t want to get a flood of returns from upset or confused customers. So, unless they are really phoning it in, they already do what they can, within the price range, to accommodate batter discharge behavior. Especially with modern digital logic being easily available in lower voltages(this ain’t your grandaddy’s ‘5v TTL means 5v sonny, or unpredictable behavior is near certain!’, this is fairly doable, and mostly already done by manufacturers who don’t actively hate you.

For high drain applications, alkalines just can’t be made to perform very well; but DC-DC converters will just flog them to death even faster(the only exception is with old-school incandescent flashlights: as voltage decreases, filament temp drops, so the flashlight spends a period of time ‘working’ but only in the largely-useless-to-humans IR bands; with a DC-DC boost, the flashlight will die faster; but every moment of its life will be dedicated to visible light. With LEDs this is much less of an issue, they get dimmer; but remain more or less the same color to their last dying breath.)


Not to mention that if you tape a Batteriser to your fuel filter, your car will get 125+ mpg!!


oh, i didn’t realize that it also polarized and aligned the electrons! :slight_smile: just image how far you could go if you put a car sized one over your entire car…probably 8X as far! i hear it also blocks harmful cell phone radiation and increases reception 8X.

personally i’m going to buy a bunch of these and stack them up. if 1 makes your battery last 8x as long, why not place another one over that! right? 8x8 = 64X, triple them up and you get 512X, the only suckers are the ones not buying these in bulk. lol.

Until I see independent testing results, I invoke Betteridge’s Law. And what’s the deal, Boing Boing is now a shilling platform for snake oil salesemen? Are we going to get posts about Alex Chiu’s magnetic immortality rings? After all, they have 3.5/5 stars on Amazon!


I have to say that linking to a patent application is about as helpful as playing their infomercial.

last 8x as long? do they make them johnson sized?


That’s why it’s tagged Joule Thief or so I would imagine.

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You are not a vast majority. I can read fine.

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Yes. Clearly this is the case. also, too, whoosh.

Battery companies HATE him!


Red flag: Phillips writes that the creator proved he wasn’t selling snake oil by demonstrating the gadget for him, but there’s no description of independent testing. Did the guy just play with it in front of you? Who provided the batteries? What were the test controls? Boosting voltage at the expense of amperage and getting 800% more operational time, really? Turned down VC because the “money trail” led to battery companies, in favor of Indiegogo? [link to reportage of indiegogo gadget scams] Consumers with mountains of nearly-dead alkaline batteries want to know!

I’m quite happy with this, as far as it goes.

Also, the first sentence of the post (“It betteridge!”) means NO.

Not all skepticism has to be posed in the ‘humorless, sighing curmudgeon’ voice, a performance with a very saturated market, and one that isn’t anywhere near as convincing as geeks like us think that it is.

Besides, policing skepticism so that it meets a requisite level of explicit denunciation is why we have Hacker News and I wouldn’t want to tread on their turf.


Understood! I’ve updated the post.

Here’s the published patent application, which is not a patent.

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A lot of comments have indeed been leaning toward the “this is incorrect, I am appalled, let me explain at length the error of your ways” end of the spectrum lately. Serious business.

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Finals are over :wink: