Toshiba to mass-produce mobile-friendly fuel cells in 2009
Assault on batteries
Toshiba is gearing up for a greener 2009 by announcing plans to mass-produce Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFCs) by March next year.
The company last week said it will set aside cash to build a DMFC production line from which the first products are expected to appear by the end of March 2009. Toshiba said it views the technology as a more eco-friendly way to power UMPCs, mobile phones and other handheld devices.
Toshiba thinks DMFC is a future power house
The scheme is part of a plan that will see Toshiba spending an extra ¥500bn ($4.8bn/£2.5bn/€3.14bn) on R&D over the next three years in a bid to drive double-digit sales growth.
The strategy is Toshiba's attempt to move beyond its failed attempt to establish HD DVD as the standard next-gen optical disc format. The plan will see it put the PS3's Cell processor into HD TVs in 2009, and its Cell-based SpursEngine graphics chip into PCs this year.
Toshiba isn’t the only electronics manufacturer looking into DMFCs. Samsung’s already produced a prototype laptop battery using the technology. Panasonic has already begun pitching DMFC as a rival to mains-sourced power.
Sony recently showed off a palm-sized fuel-cell prototype designed to work alongside a regular lithium-polymer battery.
A DMFC produces electricity from air, water and methanol. Toshiba said fuel cells don’t emit any particularly harmful materials, the main by-products being water vapour and carbon dioxide.
Toshiba also said DMFCs provide many more times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery, allowing gadgets to be powered for longer periods of time.
If DMFC still isn’t a green enough power option for you though, then you could always try pedal power.
How exactly is it greener?
More convenient, yes, with its longer operating time and cartridge exchange fill-up. But methanol doesn't, ahem, grow on trees. It's produced by the same processes, be they green or not (and of course biofuels are far from green), that produce the electricity you use in a normal phone.