Compact High-Energy Fuel Cells to Be Released in 2013
The idea of using hydrogen fuel cells for small or compact devices certainly isn’t new. In fact, there are already a few compact electrolyzers out there, as well as non-hydrogen based fuel cells (SOFC for example) that can be used to provide extra power to your gadgets.
But the idea of an ultra-portable, energy-dense, hydrogen-based fuel cell is something that is yet to be made mainstream in commercial electronics. Would we have to wait that long before it finally becomes available? Not very long, because there is already an actual commercial version that may soon arrive in 2013.
Rohm Semiconductor, Aqua Fairy and Kyoto University are the developers of a compact hydrogen fuel cell that fits the same classification as the one mentioned earlier. The secret, according to this source, is that the fuel cell does not store hydrogen as traditional fuel cells do. Instead, it actually creates hydrogen on the spot before it uses it to produce energy. This is supposed to be achieved through a chemical reaction between calcium hydride and water. With hydrogen not needing to be stored directly, the inherent disadvantage of storage posed by fuel cells becomes nil, and can now be used safely without the risk of losing or igniting the hydrogen.
The size of the battery can be as thin and as small as your standard USB stick (even thinner), yet still provide enough energy to rival the energy density of currently developed Lithium-ion batteries. A high-energy hydrogen fuel cell unit that is as thin as 3 cubic centimeters could have enough power to generate 5 watt-hours of electricity. This theoretically means that it can provide more than enough juice to fully charge any standard smartphone.
For now, they plan on distributing the fuel cells as a modular energy provision unit. It would provide back-up power to all different kinds of systems that might need a source of power that could be tapped without losing charge as it is stored. The small scale fuel cells would be used with a special cartridge cover or USB card case in order to connect the gadget for charging. The larger fuel cells will be used as backup power for home systems and remote installations, replacing your heavy standard generator and lead-acid battery with a much lighter power package set. Also, other fuel cell designs will be used on special installations and sensors such as seismometers.
They already have “demonstration models” for most of the fuel cell sizes that they plan to distribute. The current focus of their project currently, is collecting information on how people would react to the idea of the new technology and to create a proper economic strategy to introduce it to market.
One of the key reasons why their compact hydrogen fuel cells look so attractive is that fuel cells, unlike batteries, never lose charge over time. As it was presented, the compact fuel cell can last for two decades as long as it is kept properly. Unlike any other kind of battery that simply would diminish its total charge capacity over time, these new batteries can last much longer and thus provide one more bonus over conventional batteries.
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