(Source: Martin LaMonica/CNET News)
Medis Power Pack fuel cell can't be refilled

The world of portable devices is ripe for a change from battery power to alternate power sources. Many technology fans who own the latest and greatest gadgets are already early adopters who would be more likely to try new power sources like fuel cells or solar power.

One of the first commercial applications for a fuel cell available at retail outlets comes from a company called Medis Technologies. CNET News reporter Martin LaMonica got his hands on one of the Medis 24-7 Power Pack fuel cell chargers and tried the little device out.

The fuel cell measures 3.8-inches H x 2.67-inches W x 1.44-inches D and can provide electrical output of 3.6-5.45 volts at up to 220mA. Nominal power for the fuel cell is up to 1 Watt. The fuel cell costs $40 for a starter pack including several adapters for different devices like an iPod and cell phones. A replacement fuel cell is $20.

Most fuel cells -- like the Sony fuel cell -- are powered by methanol. The Medis fuel cell is powered by a solution of sodium borohydride. Once activated, the fuel cell begins producing electricity immediately and will last about three months. The fuel cell is good for about 18 months before it is activated.

The power output is reported to be enough to recharge many mobile devices several times before the fuel cell runs out of fuel. LaMonica reports that the Medis 24-7 Power Pack charged his half-full iPod touch to full capacity in about an hour -- about as quickly as the AC charger shipped with the touch can charge in.

Certainly, the biggest drawback to the Medis 24-7 Power Pack is that you can't simply refill the fuel cell. You have to purchase a new one and Medis wants consumers to mail the original fuel cell back for recycling. In the future Medis plans to develop a fuel cell that can be refilled. It also has plans to develop a fuel cell that produces 20W of power -- enough to run a laptop for 8 hours.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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