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Computer Accessories

USBCell: Batteries that recharge over USB

Recharge your AA batteries using your PC. It's such an obvious idea we wonder why nobody thought of it sooner...

We've seen some utterly bonkers USB technology in our time: USB heated gloves and slippers, a variety of USB-powered adult toys, USB barbeques and USB ashtrays that predict when you'll die of lung cancer (many of which we've discussed in the Crave Podcast).

They're all very entertaining, but nowhere near as useful as the USB rechargeable AA battery developed by Moxia Energy. It's an ordinary nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery with a USB adaptor hidden under the positive end. It can be charged simply by connecting it to your PC.

USBCells can be charged to over 90 per cent of their capacity over a standard USB port in about 5 hours, or in approved NiMH recharging cradles in about 7 hours. They'll work in pretty much every device that accepts AA batteries including digital cameras, wireless mice and keyboards, and remote-controlled cars.

The only drawback is that USBCells have about 40 per cent less capacity than conventional AA rechargeables because a third of their volume is occupied by the USB jack and associated circuitry. Still, the 1,300mAh they provide should be more than adequate given how convenient it is to recharge them.

We think the idea is pretty cool, as do many tree-huggers. Greenpeace reckons USBCells could save energy because they don't need to be used in conjunction with charging cradles -- which are typically left switched on when not in use. They're also convenient if you're travelling with a laptop and a bunch of other gadgets, because you won't need to carry a battery charger as well.

A pair of USBCells will set you back £13. They're available here. -RR