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Sanyo, IBM develop ThinkPad fuel cell

Prototype today, shipping product... when?

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Sanyo and IBM today said they will jointly research and develop a fuel-cell power system for notebook PCs.

Sanyo-IBM prototype ThinkPad fuel cellThe two companies said they will develop a hybrid system. Essentially, the direct methanol fuel cell will work alongside a slimline lithium-polymer rechargeable battery.

That's presumably because of the bulk of the fuel cell. A concept model described by Sanyo and IBM weighs in at 2.2kg and is larger that the ThinkPad they used to demonstrate it. The 28 x 27 x 1.6-5.4cm pack incorporates a 130cc fuel tank which holds enough methanol and water to provide 16V and 12-72W of power for up to eight hours' operation.

With the battery in place, the fuel cell can be hot swapped, the two companies said, allowing the user to trade power for mobility. No wonder Sanyo and IBM said getting the size down was a key target for both their research teams, with the ultimate goal of incorporating it into the body of the notebook itself.

NEC showed off a notebook with a built-in fuel cell last October, though in truth it was little more than a regular laptop with the cell bolted on to the base, much as the Sanyo-IBM prototype is. Like NEC, Sanyo and IBM didn't say when they expect this kind of technology to ship commercially. Two years ago, in March 2003, Toshiba said it was looking to commercialise notebook fuel cells "next year" - in 2004, in other words. Similarly, Hitachi has said it will ship a PDA-oriented fuel cell in co-operation with Japanese cigarette-lighter maker Tokai sometime this year. ®

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