Tiny Alcohol Fuel Cell to Power Laptops for Weeks

A tiny fuel cell that may power mobile phones and laptops for many weeks of operation between charges, may be in production by 2003, according to NEC.

TOKYO, Japan, JP, 2001-09-20 [SolarAccess.com] The manufacturer says it can use carbon technology raw material – carbon nanotubes – as electrodes, which it claims will give the tiny fuel cells improved characteristics compared with conventional cells which use activated carbon. The fuel cell is 20 percent more efficient than current units and has ten times more power per weight than lithium-ion batteries at a comparable cost, they add. Sony is developing similar nano-technology, but has yet to say when it expects to commercialize its technology which uses a similar complex carbon structure. Unlike earlier designs that required high temperatures to work, the company says electrodes using fullerenes are effective for the range of temperatures encountered by personal portable devices. They also exhibit a far smaller lag between demand and supply; while other fuel cells take many seconds to generate power, fullerene technology kicks in within one to two seconds. Both companies have yet to sort out practical issues such as the recharging mechanism where, unlike current batteries, fuel cells are replenished by injecting fresh methanol. NEC and the Japan Science & Technology Corporation and the Institute of Research & Innovation announced that the fuel cells “are seen as the energy source for the next-generation.” They say the new technological development could solve the current problems of dramatically reducing power consumption rates and be a step towards achieving a practical fuel cell for mobile terminals.
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