Title:
Apparatus and method for removing moisture from portable electronic devices
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and method are disclosed for rapid, low cost, and safe removal of trapped moisture from portable electronic devices. An airtight, sealable container is divided by an air and moisture permeable barrier into a compartment for the device and a compartment for desiccant. The method includes placing the device and desiccant into the compartments, sealing the container, and waiting for the desiccant to absorb the moisture. In preferred embodiments, the sealable container is made from plastic or glass, is disposable or reusable, and includes electrical, chemical, or other means for heating the device and/or mechanical means for forcing air between the compartments. Embodiments include silica gel or other descant in bulk or in pre-measured packets, pre-loaded in the container or stored in a separate, airtight container. Some embodiments include scoops or other means for measuring and dispensing desired desiccant quantities, and guidelines on optimal desiccant quantities and waiting times.



Inventors:
Forker, Nicholas Andrew (Brooklyn, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/999768
Publication Date:
06/11/2009
Filing Date:
12/07/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D81/26
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
CHEUNG, CHUN HOI
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Russ Weinzimmer (Milford, NH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for removing moisture from a portable electronic device, the apparatus comprising a sealable container with an airtight seal, the sealable container including: a first inner compartment that is able to contain the electronic device; a second inner compartment that is able to contain a quantity of desiccant; and a divider separating the first inner compartment and the second inner compartment, the divider permitting the exchange of air and moisture but not the exchange of desiccant.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sealable container is made from at least one of plastic, glass, vinyl, polyvinyl chloride, rubber, and synthetic rubber.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sealable container is disposable.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sealable container is re-sealable and reusable.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a quantity of desiccant.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the desiccant is contained in packets that are air-permeable and moisture-permeable.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the desiccant is in bulk form.

8. The apparatus of claim 5, also comprising an airtight, sealable desiccant storage container that stores the desiccant while not in use and prevents exposure of the desiccant to ambient moisture.

9. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the second inner compartment of the sealable container contains a pre-measured quantity of desiccant adequate for removing moisture from a portable electronic device.

10. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising means to measure desired quantities of desiccant and insert a desired quantity of desiccant into the second inner compartment of the sealable container.

11. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the desiccant is silica gel.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for warming a portable electronic device while it is in the first compartment, so as to accelerate the removal of moisture from the portable electronic device.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the means for warming the portable electronic device includes an electrical source of heat.

14. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the means for warming the portable electronic device includes a chemical source of heat.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for stimulating movement of air within and between the first and second inner compartments of the sealable container, so as to accelerate the removal of moisture from the portable electronic device.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the means for stimulating movement of air within and between the first and second inner compartments includes at least one additional compartment separated from the first and second inner compartments by a divider that permits the passage of air and moisture, the at least one additional compartment being located such that an increase of air pressure in the at least one additional compartment, due to at least one of mechanical compression, a mechanical air pump, and other pressure raising means, causes air to necessarily pass between the first and second compartments.

17. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising documentation containing information regarding at least one of recommended quantities of desiccant to be used for drying portable electronic devices and recommended drying times for portable electronic devices.

18. A method for removing moisture from a portable electronic device, the method comprising: providing a quantity of desiccant, the quantity being sufficient to absorb essentially all of the moisture from the at least one portable electronic device, providing a sealable container with an airtight seal, the sealable container including a first inner compartment that is able to contain the electronic device, a second inner compartment that is able to contain the quantity of desiccant, and a divider between the first inner compartment and the second inner compartment that permits the exchange of air and moisture but does not permit the exchange of desiccant; placing the portable electronic device into the first inner compartment of the sealable container; placing the quantity of desiccant into the second inner compartment of the sealable container; closing the airtight seal of the sealable container; and waiting an amount of time sufficient to allow the desiccant to absorb essentially all of the moisture contained in the at least one portable electronic device.

19. A method for removing moisture from at least one portable electronic device, the method comprising: providing a sealable container with an airtight seal, the sealable container including a first inner compartment that is able to contain the electronic device, a second inner compartment that contains a quantity of desiccant, and a divider between the first inner compartment and the second inner compartment that permits the exchange of air and moisture but does not permit the exchange of desiccant; placing the at least one portable electronic device into the first inner compartment of the sealable container; closing the airtight seal of the sealable container; waiting an amount of time sufficient to allow the desiccant to absorb essentially all of the moisture contained in the at least one portable electronic device; and removing the at least one portable electronic device from the sealable container.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention generally relates to systems and methods for removing moisture from delicate circuitry, and more specifically to an apparatus for removing moisture from portable electronic devices.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Electronic equipment normally has a range of acceptable environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, determined by the design parameters of the components and the manufacturing techniques used to assemble the finished product. When the environmental conditions exceed the acceptable ranges, the equipment may malfunction and/or may be damaged. Portable electronic devices, such as cellular telephones, PDA's, portable radios, portable GPA units, digital watches, and similar devices, are especially susceptible to environmental exposure, since they are more likely to be transported and used outdoors, where rain, humidity, fog, and other climate conditions may be present.

Exposure of portable electronic devices to moisture is of special concern, because moisture can become trapped inside of such a device and can cause damage long after the initial contact is over. Unfortunately, such damage is often not covered by manufacturer warranties or service agreements. Moisture typically enters in liquid form, seeping through tiny openings in the case. Once moisture has entered the device, the interior remains damp until the water evaporates. If the water evaporates before the device is switched on, and before internal components begin to corrode, damage can be averted. However, since it is not typically convenient for an owner to open such a device and expose the interior to the ambient air, the evaporation process can require days, weeks, or even longer. This very long drying time poses a significant danger of corrosion damage, and is also highly inconvenient, since there may be reluctance to use the device due to fear that the moisture may cause electrical damage. Similar concerns apply to some portable mechanical devices, such as a mechanical watch.

One method for removing moisture from a portable electronic device is to warm it, so as to raise the vapor pressure of the trapped moisture and drive it more rapidly out of the device. However, the sensitivity of most such devices to excessive heat, and the possibility of damaging them, effectively limits this approach and makes it impractical in many cases. Another approach is to seal the device inside a container together with a quantity of desiccant material such as a silica gel. Desiccants are inexpensive materials that aggressively absorb moisture and thereby severely reduce the humidity of the surrounding air. In a closed environment containing desiccant and a moisture-exposed portable device, low humidity induced by the desiccant will greatly accelerate the evaporation of moisture trapped in the device. However, desiccants often generate dust and other contaminants that can pose a hazard to some portable electronic and mechanical devices, and so must be physically separated from the electronic device by an air-permeable barrier. One approach is to pre-package desiccant in packets that are air-permeable. However, such packets must be used in increments of complete packets, which can lead to unnecessary waste of desiccant material. Also, this approach may still not provide moisture evaporation that is sufficient to avoid damage to the device.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An apparatus and method of use are disclosed that provide for rapid, low cost removal of moisture from portable devices such as cell phones, pagers, palmtops, laptops, MP3 players, hearing aids, GPA's, watches, and similar devices without exposing the device to hazardous conditions. The apparatus includes an airtight sealable container with a first inner compartment and a second inner compartment, separated by a barrier that is permeable to air and moisture but not to desiccant. The first compartment is able to contain at least one electronic device and the second inner compartment is able to contain desiccant.

In preferred embodiments, the sealable container is made from at least one of plastic and glass, the sealable container is re-sealable and reusable and/or the sealable container is disposable after use.

In preferred embodiments, the apparatus also includes desiccant, which in some embodiments is silica gel. In some of these embodiments the desiccant is contained in air-permeable and moisture permeable packets, while in other of these preferred embodiments the desiccant is supplied in bulk form. In preferred embodiments, the included desiccant is stored before use in an airtight, sealable container so as to prevent exposure to moisture. Some embodiments that include desiccant in bulk form also include also include a graduated dispenser, and/or documentation that provides information regarding recommended quantities of desiccant needed for drying each of a plurality of portable devices and/or recommended drying times for representative types of portable device, so as to ensure maximum benefit without desiccant waste.

Preferred embodiments of the apparatus include a means for warming the portable electronic device so as to raise the vapor pressure of the trapped moisture and accelerate the drying process. Some of these preferred embodiments include an electrical source of heat and/or a chemical source of heat.

Other preferred embodiments of the apparatus include a means for stimulating the movement of air within and between the first and second inner compartments of the sealable container, thereby accelerating the removal of moisture from the device.

In another aspect of the invention, desiccant is pre-loaded in the second part of the air tight sealable container, thereby eliminating the need to handle and/or measure desiccant. In all other regards, this aspect is similar to or identical with the first aspect.

The method of the invention includes providing an apparatus according to one of the aspects described above, placing a device containing trapped moisture inside the first compartment, placing desiccant material (if not already pre-loaded) in the second compartment, waiting an amount of time sufficient to remove essentially all trapped moisture, and removing the device from the sealable container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a sealable plastic container separated into a first compartment and a second compartment by a divider that is permeable to air and moisture, but not to desiccant, wherein the first compartment contains a portable electronic device with trapped moisture and the second compartment contains desiccant in a packet;

FIG. 1B is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1A, except that the second compartment contains desiccant in bulk form;

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of a desiccant packet;

FIG. 2B is a perspective view from an angle of a plurality of desiccant packets stored before use in a sealable airtight container;

FIG. 2C is a perspective view of desiccant stored before use in bulk form in a sealable airtight container;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a cylindrical vessel with a screw-on, air-tight and moisture-tight lid, with desiccant placed in a bottom, second compartment and a portable electronic device placed in an upper, first compartment, the compartments being separated by a divider that allows air and moisture, but not desiccant to pass through;

FIG. 4 is a perspective drawing of an embodiment that includes an electrical source of heat in the form of an electrically heated cloth pouch;

FIG. 5A is a perspective drawing of an embodiment similar to FIG. 1B but also including a chemical source of heat in the form of two dissimilar chemicals separated by a breakable divider and held in close thermal contact with the compartment that contains an electronic device;

FIG. 5B presents perspective views of the preferred embodiment of FIG. 5A that further clarify the relationship between the chemical heat source and the sealable container by depicting the chemical heat source separated from the sealable container (for visual clarity) and joined to the sealable container;

FIG. 6 is a perspective drawing of a preferred embodiment with a pneumatic means for stimulating the movement of air between the compartments of the sealable container so as to accelerate the drying process;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to FIG. 1A, the apparatus of the invention includes a sealable container 100 divided into a first chamber 102 and a second chamber 104 by a divider 106 that is permeable to air and moisture, but not to desiccant. The first compartment 102 can contain at least one portable electronic device with trapped moisture inside, shown in the figure as a cell phone 108, and the second chamber can contain a quantity of desiccant 110, which rapidly absorbs water vapor from the air in both compartments, thereby accelerating the drying process for the device in the first compartment. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 1A, the desiccant is contained in a single packet 110 that is pre-filled with an optimal quantity of desiccant. In similar embodiments, the desiccant is contained in multiple pre-filled packets. The sealable container 100 includes an air tight seal 112 that can isolate both compartments from the ambient environment. This ensures that the desiccant absorbs only water from the portable electronic device, and not from the general environment.

FIG. 1B is a perspective drawing of a preferred embodiment similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1A, except that the second compartment 104 contains desiccant 110 in bulk form, rather than in packets.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of desiccant material pre-filled in a packet 200. Desiccant packets 200 include a desiccant material, such as silica gel, sealed in a pouch made from paper, fabric, or another material that is permeable to air and moisture but not to desiccant.

Desiccant has a finite capacity for absorbing moisture, and once desiccant is saturated with moisture it is usually not practical to recycle it. Hence, in most preferred embodiments desiccant is stored before use in a sealed, water tight container. FIG. 2B a perspective view of a desiccant packet storage container 204 with a water-tight screw-on lid 206. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 2B, a variety of desiccant packets 110 with different sizes is provided in the storage container 204, so that an optimal packet or combination of packets can be selected according to the size and degree of wetness of the device to be dried, thereby minimizing waste of desiccant.

FIG. 2C is a perspective view of the storage container of FIG. 2B filled with desiccant 206 in bulk form. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 2C, documentation (see FIG. 7 below) is included that indicates preferred quantities of bulk desiccant to be used with different sizes and degrees of wetness of devices to be dried, so as to minimize waste of desiccant. Some of these preferred embodiments also include a measuring scoop or similar means for dispensing desiccant in measured quantities.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment that is similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1B, except that the sealable container 100 is a jar with a water-tight, screw-on lid 112. The container 100 includes an upper compartment 102 and a lower compartment 104 divided by a horizontal divider 106 that is permeable to air and moisture, but not to desiccant. The device to be dried 108 is placed in the upper compartment 102, resting on top of the divider 106, and the desiccant 110 is placed in the lower compartment 104.

The preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4 includes an electrically heated cloth pouch 400 that can surround and warm the sealable container 100, thereby increasing the water vapor pressure inside of the electronic device and accelerating the drying process. The pouch provides sufficient heat to enhance the drying process but not enough heat to risk damage to the portable electronic device. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 4, the pouch completely surrounds the sealable container 100. In similar embodiments, the pouch surrounds only the first compartment 102, so as to avoid heating the desiccant in the second compartment 104 and possibly reducing the ability of the desiccant to absorb moisture. In the embodiment of FIG. 4, electrical power is supplied by a power cord 402. Other preferred embodiments use battery power. In some preferred embodiments, a variable heat control (not shown) is included so as to allow adjustment and optimization of the amount of heat applied. Other embodiments include a timing device (not shown) that controls the length of time over which the heat is applied.

The preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5A includes a chemical source of heat using two dissimilar chemicals 500, 502 that produce heat when mixed. In the embodiment of FIG. 5A, the two chemicals 500, 502 are contained in a flexible pouch 504 and separated by a breakable barrier 506, so that the chemicals 500, 502 can be conveniently mixed by flexing and/or applying pressure to the pouch. In the embodiment of FIG. 5A, the pouch is positioned so as to have thermal contact over a large surface area with the compartment 102 that contains the device to be dried (108 in FIG. 1B).

FIG. 5B is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 5A that shows the positioning of the pouch 504 containing the two chemicals 500, 502 relative to the compartment 102 containing the portable electronic device 108.

FIG. 6 illustrates a preferred embodiment similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1B, except that the sealed container 100 includes two additional compartments 600 positioned with the first 102 and second 104 compartments between them. The additional compartments 600 contain air, so that by pressurizing them alternately the air can be forced from one to the other, necessarily causing the air to flow through the first and second compartments. This increases the flow of air between the electronic device 108 and the desiccant 110, and accelerates the drying process. In some embodiments, air is caused to flow between the additional compartments 600 by alternately compressing them, either by hand or by some other means. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 6, a mechanical pumping apparatus 602 is used. The pumping apparatus 602 includes a piston 604 and an alternating valve that routes compressed air from the piston 604 to one of the additional compartments 600 while drawing air from the other one. In FIG. 6 the piston 604 is operated by hand, while in some preferred embodiments the piston is operated by an electric motor or other powered means.

Other modifications and implementations will occur to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention as claimed. Accordingly, the above description is not intended to limit the invention except as indicated in the following claims.