Albany (NY) – Mechanical Technology (MTI) has developed a portable methanol-based fuel cell that can be used for general purpose recharging of mobile devices. Providing up to 25 Watt-hours of power, a removable cartridge design allows continuous uninterrupted power that’s off-the-grid. MTI claims products will be shipping by the end of 2009.
The device is called the Mobion charger and is about the size of a small flashlight. It includes a USB interface to allow any compliant device to receive power through its USB cable for normal operations or recharging. According to MTI, average cell phones should be recharge 10 times per refillable cartridge.
The device has at its core the third generation of a proprietary “Mobion Chip” which operates the charger. In lab tests, the chip demonstrated “power of over 62 mW/cm2 while producing more than 1800 Watt Hours Per Kilogram (Wh/kg) of energy from the direct methanol fuel feed.” An LED indicates if the device is operating, and the fuel level in reserve.
Methanol is a naturally occurring byproduct found in nature. Called methyl alcohol or (more commonly) wood alcohol, it is a colorless liquid with the chemical formula CH3OH.
Methanol is sought after as a fuel cell source due to its low odor and high hydrogen content. Fuel cells operate by converting the fuel source into hydrogen, which is then passed along one side of a catalyzing plate where it interacts with oxygen on the other side. A chemical reaction occurs across the plate whereby electricity is produced.
Fuel cells are typically very expensive to manufacture, they break easily and have short lifespans due to internal microscopic fracturing which renders the devices useless. These traits have hindered their mass adoption on the market even though they’ve been around for decades.
3.4 portable devices
According to Peng Lim, CEO of MTI, “Our Mobion product strategy is in line with what consumers on-the-go need. On average, U.S. mobile professionals carry 3.4 portable electronic devices with them, and are now buying a universal charger to conveniently recharge all their device batteries.
“However, these conventional chargers still need to plug into an electrical outlet to recharge once the energy is used. Our Mobion charger allows consumers to charge their devices anytime, anywhere by eliminating the need to plug their devices or Mobion charger into a wall outlet and wait for a recharge, generating electric power on the go and providing true mobility,” according to Lim.
Mobion will go on sale by the end of 2009, according to MTI. No word was given on price or how its power generation abilities will connect with existing products outside of the USB connection.