Leave it to Japanese designers to turn technology into something both stylish and functional -- and then keep it all to themselves. The SolarFold and SolarFan portable solar chargers unfold into surface-area-utilizing solar collectors when needed, supplying enough power to make a three-minute iPhone call after just ten minutes in the sun.
Even better, they're available immediately -- in Japan anyhow. The aptly named SolarFold packs into a tight, flat bundle about the size of a Sony PSP, but deploys like a folding screen to maximize solar exposure. But the even-cooler and equally well-named SolarFan fans out like, you know, a fan -- and it comes with a handy little tripod so you can adjust the angle of your ersatz solar array to suit your location and the time of day.
Made by AmbienTec, the chargers run about $250 each and power just about anything that can juice up via USB. The devices haven't hit U.S. stores yet, but AmbienTec will happily sell you one directly.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.