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

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS
AppleSIM 'ware to allow quick switch of carriers
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.