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Image courtesy BBC News
Toshiba works its magic on fuel cells

The mobile applications for fuel cell technology are slowly starting to come into focus for Toshiba. The company, which began fuel cell development four years ago, has demonstrated a working prototype "dock style" fuel cell which can power a Portege notebook for up to 10 hours.

Toshiba has developed a program which displays to users how much fuel is remaining in the tank. The company has also taken many precautions to ease the concerns over the methane being in such close proximity to the notebook. In addition, Toshiba has made the actual fuel cell unit durable enough to withstand abuse without leaking. "We've dropped it on its front, its back, its edges, and we've found it to be extremely strong," said Tomoaki Arimura of Toshiba's Methanol Fuel Cell Group. But while most of the reaction to the system has been positive, there have been a few downsides found in trial testing. From BBC News:

The trials also highlighted the model's rough edges. The first becomes apparent as soon as it is switched on. There are small but constant whirring noises and the persistent sounds of tiny clicks made by the pump and valves. Some people may find such noises irritating. Feedback from the trials showed that some thought the shape and size of the refills inconvenient.

Toshiba is also working on a "flat-bed" fuel cell which sits under the notebook. The company showed a pre-commercial prototype at CES. Advances have to be made in miniaturization of the fuel pump, valves and other components to make this style of fuel cell viable. The company wants to eventually shrink the components down to the point where they could actually fit within the body of the notebook.



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Batteries are Good
By TomZ on 6/1/2006 10:46:25 AM , Rating: 2
Let's see, what would I rather do? Go to the store and buy methane cartridges all the time, or plug my laptop into AC power and charge a battery? Hmmm, let me think about that.

Seriously, I don't see why such a fuss is being made about fuel cells in portable devices. It seems to me that companies are trying to reproduce the disposable razor business model where you continually have to buy something (fuel cartridges in this case) in order to keep using your computer.




RE: Batteries are Good
By Hare on 6/1/2006 11:12:30 AM , Rating: 2
I think that you can actually refill it. I have also seen prototype MP3-players with methanol/methane cartridges and the sign said that the consumer could refil them...


RE: Batteries are Good
By Scabies on 6/1/2006 11:28:29 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but the point was that the average consumer doesnt have a pressurized cylinder of methane in their house. I dont think that natural gas lines really work in this sense either, so the most convenient thing would still be to plug in a LiION/NiMH/whatevergoesintorechargablebatteries battery to the wall and suffer with 2-6 hrs of life.

another point, pressurized gas cant be in a carry on in airplanes. Sucks to fly without this 10 hr timekiller.

third point, pressurized gas tends to lose heat when decompressed. I'm sure heat is regenerated in the gas-DC power conversion, but is there anything to consider in reference to cooling with this mug?


RE: Batteries are Good
By kitchme on 6/1/2006 12:23:37 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they were thinking that average user has a cow or two at hand for the refilling purposes. Logistics might be difficult, though, to bring the cow on the airplane.


RE: Batteries are Good
By dice1111 on 6/1/2006 12:52:29 PM , Rating: 2
"Excuse me sir, can I use a spare connection on that utter? I left my cow at home and I really need to check my e-mail."


RE: Batteries are Good
By Pirks on 6/1/2006 2:53:52 PM , Rating: 2
udder


That's METHANOL!
By lamestlamer on 6/2/2006 2:23:28 AM , Rating: 2
Pay more attention to details(especially when in Organic Chemistry)

Methanol != Methane
Methanol is a liquid at room tempurature, but like ethanol, is very volatile. Methanol is typically created during fermentation when the yeast is poisoned. Methanol is a poison and can cause blindness and death.


RE: That's METHANOL!
By sxr7171 on 6/2/2006 5:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you! These people are so stupid.


RE: Batteries are Good
By bldckstark on 6/2/2006 12:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
As noted earlier here, the fuel is actually a liquid. Methanol is Methyl Alcohol. The kind of alcohol that will blind you if it is in your moonshine. Also, the alcohol is not decompressed or burned, it is chemically stripped of it electrons with the output being electricity and water. No mention of where the water goes in this thing. Is there a cup that has to be emptied?


RE: Batteries are Good
By beemercer on 6/11/2006 2:12:18 AM , Rating: 3
Actually mmonshine has a very low methanol content if you dont suck at fermenting; Whiskey you buy at a liquor store has almost 5 times more methanol per unit volume.


RE: Batteries are Good
By sxr7171 on 6/2/2006 5:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
Not everybody sits on their fat ass and uses their laptop at home or around AC power. Some people are hoping for these to get small enough to power portable devices on the go.


meh
By Falloutboy on 6/1/2006 11:44:23 AM , Rating: 2
possibly when they are they perfect reusable hydrogen fuel cells that instead of being refilled just need to be pluged into a wall to have the spent fuel converted back.

Also I find it ironic that were trying to get off fosil fuels yet they come up with a laptop that runs off of essentially natural gas




RE: meh
By Chadder007 on 6/1/2006 12:02:18 PM , Rating: 2
Thats what im wondering....WTF were they thinking when coming up with this technology? I just don't see where it fits in.


RE: meh
By peternelson on 6/1/2006 3:04:24 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, one FREE source of methane is from waste landfill sites. The decomposition gives off methane gas. Some landfill sites already pump this out gathering it into a power plant and generating electricity from it.

So you could take your laptop down to the nearest dump and plug into some form of compresser/charging device to refill your fuel cell. On the other hand, I don't really want to go to the dump actually so they would have to put it in a tanker and bring it to me eg my local grocery store could then hold a canister of it used to refill my lappy cell.

Unfortunately to have to do this every 10 hours (or every 20 or 40 if I keep spare cells) would be a REAL drag.

Conventional rechargeable batteries are much more convenient. Another viable option is to stick solar cells on your laptop which in conjunction with low power cpus could keep you running longer as a replacement or supplementary power source.

Fuel cells may have uses say in cars, but I'm not sure they will take off in ipods and laptops.


RE: meh
By lemonadesoda on 6/1/2006 3:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So you could take your laptop down to the nearest dump


Plug it into your toilet for a more local supply.


RE: meh
By TomZ on 6/1/2006 6:05:32 PM , Rating: 2
I think the methane available from landfills can be used in other ways that are more practical than refilling laptop fuel cell cartridges. Like generating electricity to put back into the power grid, so I can charge my laptop battery.


RE: meh
By doctor sam adams on 6/1/2006 12:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also I find it ironic that were trying to get off fosil fuels yet they come up with a laptop that runs off of essentially natural gas


Even if they ran it off of hydrogen, the energy would still be coming from fossil fuels because hydrogen is not naturally occurring on earth--it has to be electrolyzed from water. By conservation of energy, the same amount of energy it takes to electrolyze is what is released, minus some for inefficiencies in conversion.


RE: meh
By sxr7171 on 6/2/2006 5:14:35 PM , Rating: 2
...and your electricity comes from?


BTW, methanol is not a fossil fuel.


odd...
By eomhS on 6/1/2006 11:44:34 AM , Rating: 2
well if you took the fuel cell out and put a battery the same size as that unit, you could prolly get more then 10 hrs. of battery life anyways...




RE: odd...
By OrSin on 6/1/2006 11:55:02 AM , Rating: 2
Thats actually what I was thinking. A battery that big would be work for 10 hr plus too. And guess what people all power is fossil fuels. Yes we have few sources that are not (solar, wind, hyrdo, nuclear), but in the end 90% of all electric is from coal. I think the thing with fuel cells is that thye have not reached thier limit yeat the way batteries have. Batter technolony is a dead end for chemical induced reactions anyway. Fuels cell will be the future but that future sees to be 10-15 years out.


RE: odd...
By Missing Ghost on 6/1/2006 9:14:37 PM , Rating: 2
90% from coal? you must live in the USA. In my country we have only 2 coal powered power plants. It's more like 90% from hydro. Hydro is efficient if you have the water.


RE: odd...
By Zoolook on 6/2/2006 4:26:07 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah same here, we have about 50% hydro and 45 % nuclear powered electricity where I live.


hope not in a ......
By Souka on 6/1/2006 12:34:55 PM , Rating: 2
I hope they don't make one for Mac laptops....

BOOM!!!!!!





RE: hope not in a ......
By peternelson on 6/1/2006 3:07:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, Apple Hindenburg ;-)


RE: hope not in a ......
By lemonadesoda on 6/1/2006 3:21:23 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, that's priceless! 10/10


RE: hope not in a ......
By Sensai on 6/1/2006 3:26:10 PM , Rating: 2
the guy's head is awkwardly huge ;)


Garbage
By Chudilo on 6/1/2006 12:07:06 PM , Rating: 2
They already had a ethyl alcohol powered Fuel cell last year. and it's a hek of a lot smaller then this monster. Also who says you need a pump. If this wasn't pressurized gas you could just let the alcohol drip down naturally. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
There are much better solutions out there.




RE: Garbage
By DigitalFreak on 6/1/2006 12:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
A Lenovo laptop using this could really be called a "Stinkpad".


RE: Garbage
By lemonadesoda on 6/1/2006 3:23:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that block is easily 10x the volume of a regular battery. If a normal battery gives you 4hrs, then you would get 40hrs+ off a battery that size.

In fact, if you want to have a fuel cell that size, why not have an umbrella covered in solar-cells and just hoist it up above the laptop. LOL


Why not ethanol...
By BladeVenom on 6/1/2006 8:15:44 PM , Rating: 2
I want an ethanol powered laptop, so it can use the same fuel I do.




Bah! WUSSIES!!! Methanol SMETHANOL...
By rushfan2006 on 6/2/2006 10:45:54 AM , Rating: 2
What you all don't know is right now my company is working on the first "FUSION REACTOR CELL" to power your laptop (and consequently your entire neighborhood with the optional power grid link-up accessory)....10 hours of life? HA HA HA! With the Fusion Reactor Cell you can power your laptop for 10,000 YEARS in non-stop full power mode....

And don't forget every Fusion Reactor Cell comes with our exclusive and patented "Armaggeddon Anti-Theft" device....if the laptop is removed from its security cable without the proper finger print / number code combination a verbal timer will count down from "20" informing the would be criminal that they (along with everyone in a 5 mile radius) has scant seconds left of their meager lives before every particle in their body hyper accelerates to the core temperature of the sun in under 1/1000th of a second. :)



By bldckstark on 6/2/2006 12:32:18 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, get real. They would heat up faster than that.


Oh, thats nice
By Scabies on 6/1/2006 10:27:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
"We've dropped it on its front, its back, its edges, and we've found it to be extremely strong, "

I was hoping that durability was a primary design consideration, not a post-production discovered bonus. Cool, though. Howsabout a methane powered UPS? (wait, methane? gross!)




RE: Oh, thats nice
By JonB on 6/1/2006 10:35:16 AM , Rating: 2
"Methane is a colorless, odorless gas with a wide distribution in nature. It is the principal component of natural gas.."

You must be thinking of the less pure form available from my cousin, Stinky.


How is this any better
By Shadowself on 6/1/2006 10:35:41 AM , Rating: 2
than the zinc-air batteries of old?

At least those don't have worries about methane gas escaping, and they've been for sale for about a decade for use with some laptops.




RE: How is this any better
By Jedi2155 on 6/1/2006 2:55:26 PM , Rating: 2
Easy refill?


Look Ma, No Batteries!
By InternetGeek on 6/1/2006 10:37:28 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The company wants to eventually shrink the components down to the point where they could actually fit within the body of the notebook.


That would be nice.




Insane
By lemonadesoda on 6/1/2006 3:27:04 PM , Rating: 2
If you are prepared to have a fuel cell that size, you could probably fit a handle, spring, and dynamo into the same case for a wind-up laptop. LOL




"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson











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