Sioux Falls (SD) – Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Transportation removed a major hurdle to wide adoption of fuel cell technologies. They will now allow butane, methanol and formic acid to be transported on airplanes. Said Sara Bradford, an energy and power systems consultant, “That was on of the largest challengers to this market – to overcome the regulation issue.” She believes we are now truly within one or two years from fuel cell use in notebooks, cell phones, PDAs and other portable electronic devices.
The fuel cell advantage
Fuel cells operate differently than traditional batteries. They generate power by converting fuel directly into electricity, but without any combustion. This allows them to generate a continuous amount of power like when plugged into a wall outlet, just so long as there’s fuel.
TG Daily has seen plug-in devices that are comparable in size to modern batteries (with many even smaller). These are capable of storing the necessary fuel to produce electricity. And, while they generate as much or more power than batteries of similar size do today, they also do it for far longer.
A month-long notebook
A typical fuel cell the size of a cell phone battery could provide enough electricity for about a week’s worth of continuous use without refueling – and more than a month in standby mode. In addition, when the fuel level gets low, the power source can be immediately recharged for another month of standby as easily as refilling a butane lighter.
Notebooks will also operate for over a month on a single fuel cell filling. These have already been demonstrated from Samsung in August, 2007 as well as at countless trade shows and even Intel Developer forums. IBM also prototyped a ThinkPad operating on a methanol fuel cell in April, 2005. That early device held a 130cc tank (about 4.4 oz) and provided 8 hours worth of power. Advances today would allow the same 130cc tank to power modern equipment for up to several days.
Advances in technology
Butane-powered fuel cells provide roughly 20x more power than batteries of equivalent size. The charging system for these power packs will be approximately $100 to $150, according to AP. Refill cartridges will be $1 to $3 each.
Read more via AP at Yahoo News.