Brian Box

A pocket sized smart device for charging your phone everywhere

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The Brian Box aims to be a small device that uses any type of input power and converts it to a steady and safe USB 5 volts for charging your mobile phone everywhere. This small and affordable box can harvest power from any type of solar panel and can be used by non experienced people everywhere. ! NO SOLAR CHARGER, NO BATTERY, NO INVERTER, NO EXTRA PHONE CHARGER--- CONNECT THE PHONE DIRECTLY TO THE SOLAR PANEL SAFE ---

This is the small new hope for all the IIIrd world countries. The Brian Box aims to be a simple 5$ device which opens new possibilities for the masses. 


I'm a former Romanian HW engineer and I recently moved to Papua New Guinea for a few years. While being involved here in some technical works, I had the opportunity to travel a lot into the remote jungle sides of this country. In the rural areas, people are trying to develop better living conditions and to begin to use some small solar panels. In the areas where they have access to mobile phone signal, they struggle to find simple and affordable solutions to charge them. Usually, the classical approach is to charge some old car batteries using these cheapish solar panels they have, and from there, to try to use some car (cigarette socket) phone chargers. This practice of trying to charge their old batteries without using a solar charger and connecting the solar panels directly to the battery, leads many times to setting their houses on fire.


A fairly technical and good solution would be to design a low price adjustable and multi-purpose DC to DC converter power supply that is very simple to use without having technical background. This device could convert the solar panel voltage down to a steady and safe to use 5V without the need of degradable expensive and potential dangerous batteries. The aim would be to create this tool for the masses at a low price and keep it under 5$ so the people of these places could afford to buy it.

Potential benefits:

The mobile phone is not only a mean of communication, but it can provide today access to education, eBooks and reading apps. In some areas, it can provide a little bit of 3G internet and this opens the horizon of these people to whole new perspectives. The mobile phone itself, can act as a small flashlight that can be charged during the day and used during the night. This eliminates the need for complicated or expensive energy storage installations, it eliminates the risk of fire and it's long lasting. In most cases a device like this would be more than what the bush houses living people currently have. 

Brian Box bill of materials w_price.xlsx

Bill of materials with prices per units and volumes

sheet - 12.42 kB - 10/13/2018 at 07:59


Brian Box Gerber

Gerber files including drill file

x-zip-compressed - 14.74 kB - 10/13/2018 at 07:18


Brian Box label_no.png

case label

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 6.41 kB - 07/11/2018 at 00:00


Brian Box test report.docx

Brian Box partial Test Report March 2018

document - 4.78 MB - 03/29/2018 at 12:39


Brian Box user manual.docx

User manual

document - 108.27 kB - 03/29/2018 at 12:33


View all 11 files

  • 1 × LM2596 Power Management ICs / Switching Regulators and Controllers
  • 2 × 220uF/35V
  • 1 × 33uH inductor
  • 1 × PCB Electronic Components / Misc. Electronic Components
  • 1 × 3D printed case from the provided link

View all 13 components

  • Gerber files

    Marius Taciuc10/13/2018 at 07:21 0 comments

    I added the Gerber zip archive into the Files area. Check and download if you want to reproduce this project more easily. 

  • Brian Box for the masses

    Marius Taciuc09/17/2018 at 13:48 0 comments

       As I said on the project's page in a previous log, I wanted to use a part of the winnings to invest in manufacturing a small volume of Brian Box modules. My plan was to distribute these modules to some local families here in PNG and to help them in this way. The Brian Box module won the Power Harvesting Round @ the 2018 Hackaday Prize 

       This means that I had to keep my promise and invest 40% of the winnings in creating 60 lucky prototypes that would find their owners in some of the remote villages of the PNG rain forest. 

       Some of these prototypes already left for the following villages (tribes): Kuni, Arop, Patep, Kamano and Nomane. I hope I will be able to show you some pictures soon.

  • How safe?

    Marius Taciuc03/29/2018 at 12:43 0 comments

    I managed to make some reliability tests and to make a test report for this device. So far, so good. I trust it to charge my phone in every situation with any kind of solar panel so far. Check the Files area for more details. 

  • User manual

    Marius Taciuc03/29/2018 at 12:30 0 comments

    Since I plan to create this for the masses, I had to put together an intuitive and simple to digest user manual. Check the Files area for the document

  • A few specs

    Marius Taciuc03/23/2018 at 00:14 0 comments

    Product specifications






    Operating voltage





    Output voltage





    Input current





    Output current





    Operating frequency





    Internal shut down temperature





    Maximum case temperature





    For 10 min

    Overload and short circuit protection





  • Added label

    Marius Taciuc03/22/2018 at 23:40 0 comments

    The Files area contains now the label design files. Just in case you are interested. 

    Stay tuned for more.

  • Published pictures with the prototype

    Marius Taciuc03/22/2018 at 23:39 0 comments

    Watch the gallery for a slideshow with all the images. 

  • Added the case files

    Marius Taciuc03/21/2018 at 01:17 0 comments

    Check the case files here:

    Stay tuned for more info

  • Added schematic

    Marius Taciuc03/20/2018 at 04:20 0 comments

    I added the schematic in the Files area. I also made two quick renders of the layout files. One of the layout files is including the connector and the other one is without. 

    As you noticed, it is not so much of an electronic design, excepting the fact that I redrew the diagram with my own connectors, reverse polarity protection diode and the LED light. In fact, I believe there are similar products on the market at this time. After all, this simple schematic is like connecting an LM317 to a couple of capacitors. It's only requiring basic skills. This simple diagram is proposed several times in different configurations in the datasheet of the component. It is a simple circuit but it will work perfectly with my design. 

  • Why the name?

    Marius Taciuc03/19/2018 at 06:06 0 comments

      Why Brian?

       Many people told me that I should have called this the Marius Box. The truth is that for years many people of these places dreamed of having something like this. An old coworker and friend of mine, named Brian Chapaitis used to say that we would need something like a box connected between a cheapish  solar panel and the mobile phone, and a device like that would be life saving in so many cases. The original early proof-of-concept prototype for this project was created by Brian Chapaitis. Since I'm not in for the "fame and glory" and I just wanted to help, I saw as a good opportunity to give credit to this man and to name the device after him. After all, I am only trying to help these people by providing small and affordable open source solutions for them. Being with them here in Papua New Guinea, offers me the possibility to see what they are really struggling with and to come up with real solutions according to their needs.  

       What If I win something?

       Posting an open source project like this on the hackadays page is already a wining ticket. By publishing a project like this, i open the way for others to improve and manufacture an idea like this for the masses in the future. Good ideas should not be kept secret. My dream is that in a few months we will be able to buy this device from ebay at less than 5$. The people of these places could therefore buy something like this from a random chinese store in town with less than 15 kina. And this represents a small bit of comfort, light, education and communication bought with a price equal to the average daily income. I don't really know how this design will evolve... If there'll be a good bet that this project wins something I plan now to use 40% of any winnings to manufacture some of these things for some of the people i know in the surrounding villages. God bless!

View all 10 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Clark wrote 08/25/2018 at 15:15 point

I had a same project like this 3 years ago using LM2596, only I'm using 2 stainless steel screws. It is sturdy and always come in handy during camping. Good luck

  Are you sure? yes | no

mirosan wrote 07/16/2018 at 12:29 point

Hello Marius, great work! It's going to help a lot of people.  One thing I want to raise with you is unless you implement the usb charging negotiation/signalling the phones will default to the slowest charge rate. This can be ridiculously slow. It need not be complicated... have a read of this project that made this in a back to back usb dongle....

All the best

  Are you sure? yes | no

Florian Festi wrote 07/12/2018 at 12:09 point

You may want to look into laser cutting for the case. It can probably be made out of a few layers stacked on top of each other and then held together with screws. It might be enough to just use a few cross sections from the 3D model you already have for 3D printing.

While laser cutters are less common they are much faster than 3D printers and you can cut out such a case in like two minutes - if not less.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Marius Taciuc wrote 07/12/2018 at 03:21 point

These seem to be good ideas. Thanks 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Brian Scoggins wrote 07/10/2018 at 19:34 point

Have you considered e.g. terminal blocks in addition to or in lieu of the cable with alligator clamps? I'd be concerned about cable lifespan if I was using one of these in the field for extended periods of time.

Also, have you considered redesigning the circuit to use PTH/through-hole parts so that anybody with access to the PCB, the components, and a soldering iron could crank one out? That seems like a quality intro-to-soldering project that isn't just a blinking led that sits on a shelf somewhere.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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