A Turbine In Your Cell Phone

By on October 20, 2004

…or in your PDA, or in your laptop, or in your kids’ toys…

According to an article in Technology Review, the uber-geeks at MIT are working on turbines the size of a dime, spin at over a million RPM’s, and may one day provide power for the gadgets you use.

A micro gas turbine engine… could run for ten or more hours on a container of diesel fuel slightly larger than a D battery; when the fuel cartridge ran out, a new one could be easily swapped in. Each disposable cartridge would pack as much energy as a few heavy handfuls of lithium-ion batteries. As a result, a small pack of the cheap and light cartridges could power a PDA or cell phone through several days of heavy usage, no wall-outlet recharging required — a highly attractive feature for soldiers in remote locations or travelers. What’s more, the miniature turbine takes up about a quarter of the volume of a typical cell-phone battery.

I would think that these mini jet engines could use just about anything for fuel; JP-4, diesel, kerosene, biodiesel, alcohol, etc… One of the big hurdles to overcome — aside from just getting parts that small to spin that fast without self-destructing — is going to be waste heat. Imagine carrying a tiny little furnace around in your pocket… Maybe a teeny tiny air conditioner?

If you want to snoop on some real geek conversation, don’t miss the discussion page for the article.



  1. You thought the spontaneously combusting Powerbook batteries were bad? Wait until the jet turbine in someone’s laptop gets off balance and sends rotor blades spinning at a million RPM ripping through the laptop chassis and everything else in the room!

  2. “Because if there’s one thing our soldiers need to carry more of into battle, it’s jet fuel.”

    And that’s worse than a few hundred pounds of batteries or a generator (which runs on gasoline or diesel)? The point is, the military is becoming increasingly dependent on tech gadgets, and those gadgets need electricity.

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