Supercapacitor-powered Bamboo speaker charges in minutes and lasts for hours

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This speaker charges in minutes, plays for hours. Photo: Blueshift
This speaker charges in minutes, plays for hours. Photo: Blueshift

A few years ago, Portland resident Sam Beck built a bike-powered speaker that wouldn’t cut off when he stopped pedaling at stoplights. He accomplished such a feat with an amazing new technology: supercapacitors.

Instead of stopping there, however, Beck decided to bring his vision to the portable bluetooth speaker market, and his company — Blueshift — was born. Crowd-funded and open sourced, these gorgeous bamboo speakers charge in minutes and sound amazing for hours. The original unit, called Helium, is a big, bold bamboo speaker that packs a ton of sound.

Beck is releasing a second generation speaker called Hydrogen on crowd-funding site Crowd Supply. This new boombox is smaller and a little less loud, but it’s the same quality and design as its larger sibling, and a little less pricey.

Part of the appeal, for Beck, of figuring out this entirely new way of powering a speaker was the inherent challenge of doing something that no one else had.

“It seemed like such a good idea,” he told Cult of Mac over the phone, “I wondered why no one else was doing it. I saw that there was another way to do things that no one else was doing.”

Check out the video below for more details on this gorgeous high-tech portable speaker cabinet.

The supercapacitors that Blueshift uses are D-cell-sized battery alternatives that can deliver up to 40 times the amount of power as a regular chemical-based battery, even while storing less actual energy. They typically have a lifecycle of 500,000 charges, which is about 500x more charges than a standard battery. This is the first use we’ve seen of this technology in a consumer product.

The vision here is to make electronics that will last. Bamboo is a renewable material, while the supercapacitors last much longer than your typical batteries. The whole case is also designed so that you can get into it with ease, making it simple to switch out the speaker driver or even add a new audio technology.

“Every part can be swapped out, which is the whole idea, for me,” said Beck. “What if the new iPhone doesn’t have Bluetooth? You can then replace the whole main circuit board. These should last forever.”

Beck realizes the trickiness of selling a product that never needs replacing; planned obsolescence isn’t the goal of this Anchorage, Alaska native. He doesn’t plan on selling millions of units a year. This is his lifestyle business, his way of making enough money to do what he loves: designing and creating new products.

“I’m trying to sell at a scale where I can have a hand in production,” he said. “I just want to be able to keep working on new products.”

Such new products include other speaker cabinets, like the high-end Argon living-room speaker pairs that can play over eight hours of audio with one charge, and a pre-amp unit, made with the same bamboo material, that will allow you to plug in a guitar or even a turntable to any of the Blueshift speaker products. There’s even a subwoofer in the works that will pair with any of the Bluetooth speakers; this one requires wall power, though.

Overall, the sustainability of these products, as well as their amazing-looking design, is what drew us to the project. If you feel the same way, head on over to the Blueshift Hydrogen Crowd Supply project page and give these puppies a look.