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Self-heating cans have arrived

With the rapid pace of technological innovation, more and more of the things we’re used to are becoming obsolete.

With the rapid pace of technological innovation, more and more of the things we’re used to are becoming obsolete. We can add the microwave oven to that growing list.

The future lies in self-heating food, a new technology that has been under development by the military for some time. Over the weekend, packaging giant Crown Holdings announced that it had signed a deal with Austin, Tex.-based startup HeatGenie to incorporate flameless heaters into its products.

Philadelphia-based Crown is one of those companies that are invisible – but extremely important – to the every-day consumer as it makes many of the cans that beverages and food come in. Crown, a Fortune 500 company, says it manufactures about 20% of the world’s beverage cans and about a third of all the food cans used in North America and Europe.

HeatGenie’s technology, which has been funded by several startup investors and purchased for testing by the U.S Army, is the size of a small tea candle, weighs 1.3 ounces and can be recycled. It sits in the bottom of the can and can be activated by pushing a button, whereupon it heats itself to 145 degrees Fahrenheit within two minutes. Here’s a video explaining how it works.

I remember some Army folks telling me about this technology a few years ago while I was working on Sex, Bombs and Burgers – they said it was safe, inexpensive and compact but not quite fast enough for prime time. Evidently that has changed; Crown said that in tests, consumers didn’t like anything that took more than two minutes, which HeatGenie was able to achieve.

What are the possible uses? As HeatGenie founder Brendan Coffey (very appropriately named) puts it: “Imagine driving to work with a six-pack of coffee in your car that can be heated while you’re driving. Or having self-heating soup or pasta for your child’s lunch box.”