Feeds

Toshiba touts pump-free fuel cell for MP3 players

Fuel is not sold in a forest, nor fish in a lake

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Toshiba has produced a fuel cell with no moving parts. Instead of pumps, the tiny 5.6 x 2.2 x 0.5-0.9cm power pack uses a "concentration gradient" to feed fuel and oxygen to the catalyst-covered electrode where they react to generate electricity.

Toshiba's matchbox-sized fuel cellThe company claims the unit, unveiled as a prototype yesterday, is the world's smallest 100mW fuel cell.

Like other fuel cells, the Toshiba unit is a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). Methanol in a ten per cent concentration touches an electrode separated from a second electrode by a polymer membrane. When air is brought into contact with the second electrode, current flows through any circuit linking the two electrodes.

Getting the membrane right is crucial to preventing air and methanol combining without starting a power-generating reaction. Another problem is the need to pack in enough high-concentration methanol to provide either a long running time or to use as small a fuel reservoir as possible before reducing the concentration sufficiently to trigger the reaction.

Toshiba's prototype uses a structure that progressively dilutes the methanol as it passes from the fuel tank to the reaction chamber. The structure causes methanol to flow through the system without the need to drive it with a pump. The downside is that the cell generates less power, but that makes it more suitable for highly mobile applications.

The refillable fuel tank holds 2cc of methanol in 99.5 per cent concentration - almost ten times the concentration required for the power-producing reaction.

The 8.5g cell generates 100mW of power - enough, Toshiba said, to run am MP3 player for 20 hours.

Last October, the company unveiled a 130g DMFC designed to be used to recharge a phone's own battery rather than as a replacement for it. It generated an average output of 1W and can run for 20 hours - enough, says Toshiba, to recharge a typical phone battery six times.

In March both NEC and Hitachi demonstrated notebook-oriented fuel cells, as did Toshiba. Intel-funded start up PolyFuel is also working on direct methanol fuel cells for laptops. So is German company Smart Fuel Cells.

Toshiba expects to commercialise DMFC technology for PCs in 2004 and for smaller handheld devices in 2005. ®

Related stories

Toshiba demos cellphone fuel cell
Toshiba boffins prep laptop fuel cell
Sulphur fuels battery breakthrough
Fujitsu breakthrough slims fuel cell size
Hitachi readies fuel cell for PDAs
NEC, Hitachi prep notebook fuel cells
Fuel cell to power notebooks and mobile phones
Motorola claims alcoholic PC breakthrough

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.