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Nokia nixes fuel cells development project

'Too immature'

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Nokia has shelved plans to develop mobile phones powered by fuel cells for at least a few years, the Finnish phone manufacturer said Thursday 3 March. Eight months ago, Nokia launched a fuel-cell development programme but it has concluded the technology is still some way off maturity.

Nokia may restart development work in the future. "Fuel-cell technology is promising and Nokia continues to follow it closely," said Nokia's Matti Naskali, AP reports.

Fuel cell generates electricity as a by-product of the oxidisation of dilute methanol. The principle behind fuel cells has been understood for some time but creating fuel cells small enough to fit neatly onto mobile phones that create sufficient power has been more of a challenge.

Providing these problems can be overcome, powering mobile phones using fuel cells offers several advantages, not least longer talk and standby times. A fuel cell would be refilled in the same way a cigarette lighter is refilled when it runs out of butane.

In June 2004, Tero Ojanpera, the head of Nokia's research centre, demoed a handset powered by a prototype fuel cell. At the time, he predicted that the technology would take two years to become commercially viable.

Fast forward eight months and it’s a different story. Nokia's Naskali told AP that logistical problems had blunted its enthusiasm for the technology. Air transport regulations currently prohibit the carriage of methanol, a flammable substance, without special packaging. Also arrangements to distribute and supply methanol have proved trickier to arrange than Nokia first expected.

Despite Nokia's reservations about the technology other manufacturers including Motorola, Toshiba, Fujitsu and NEC continue to research the development of fuel-cells for either mobiles or laptops. ®

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Toshiba demos cellphone fuel cell

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