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Sony Hybrid Fuel Cell System  (Source: TechOn)
Sony plans to commercialize the hybrid fuel cell system for mobile devices

Fuel cells are one of the items that will change the face of the electronics industry forever once they finally start making their way into electronic devices. Sony unveiled its own ultra-small hybrid fuel cell system that is small enough to fit in one hand.

The fuel cell system measures 50mm x 30mm and combines a fuel cell, Li-polymer secondary battery and a control circuit. According to TechOn this is the first time Sony has shown off a complete fuel cell system that has a control circuit and secondary battery.

Sony says that it expects to commercialize the fuel cell and an engineer from the Sony material Laboratory said, “We have been aiming to mount (a fuel-cell system) in mobile devices and finally reached a level of commercial design.” The fuel cell runs on methanol.

Methanol also powers the Mobion fuel cell that DailyTech covered last week that was integrated into a GPS prototype. However, the Mobion fuel cell is passive and the Sony fuel cell is active with a pump to move the methanol. Sony’s didn’t comment specifically on its fuel cell power output, but does say output can be as high as 3W.

According to Sony, 3W is enough power for a mobile device. The fuel cell is said to be able to run 14 hours in a mobile phone on 10mL of methanol. It’s not entirely clear if the fuel cell will power electronic devices directly or if it will charge the internal Li-ion battery, which will in turn power the electronic device the fuel cell is integrated into. The battery could also be used as a type of backup power system.

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Methanol - never heard of it
By Schrag4 on 5/5/2008 11:33:11 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a total n00b when it comes to chemistry, so I looked up methanol on Wikipedia. I'm not so sure I'd want to power my kids hand-held games with this stuff:

"Methanol is toxic by two mechanisms. Firstly, methanol (whether it enters the body by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin) can be fatal due to its CNS depressant properties in the same manner as ethanol poisoning. Secondly, it is toxic by its breakdown (toxication) by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver by forming formic acid and formaldehyde which cause permanent blindness by destruction of the optic nerve.[2] Fetal tissue will not tolerate methanol. Dangerous doses will build up if a person is regularly exposed to vapors or handles liquid without skin protection. If methanol has been ingested, a doctor should be contacted immediately. The usual fatal dose is 100–125 mL (4 fl oz). Toxic effects take hours to start, and effective antidotes can often prevent permanent damage."

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By SlingXShot on 5/5/2008 11:42:15 AM , Rating: 2
Can methanol alcohol power this? Any pharmacy sells these things for pennies, like a bottle for 1$... u can get them at 99 cent store too.

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By Adonlude on 5/5/2008 2:36:22 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder why they don't use ethanol? Perhaps they decided that selling 200 proof liquor to school children to power their stuff might be difficult to get approved?

Ethanol, Methanol, Isopropanol, all pretty common. You drink Ethanol and you probably have Isopropanol in your medecine cabinet for cleaning wounds. Methanol isn't really sold in household products.

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By Penti on 5/5/2008 6:00:46 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By CD on 5/6/2008 12:34:23 AM , Rating: 2
Correct me if I'm wrong, methanol is less stable, thus easier to react.So you get more energy out with less put in. Usually, the bigger the carbon chain, the less reactive those buggers become. Its got to do with folding and stuff.

College chemistry, but since I left a few yrs ago, I might be wrong.

Also I failed my coll chem :)

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By mmntech on 5/5/2008 11:43:56 AM , Rating: 2
Methanol is used quite frequently for RC cars and planes. It's also used as the fuel for funny cars and as windshield wiper fluid. It's no more dangerous than any other pure alcohol. I've been using it in my RC planes for years. I've spilt it on myself. I'm still alive and healthy. You pretty much have to be huffing or drinking the stuff for it to be fatal. 10ml certainly isn't going to kill you.

Speaking of RC, I'd love to get my hands on one of these so I'd never have to charge batteries again. It would need to be more than 3w though.

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By theapparition on 5/5/2008 12:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
For ingestion purposes, methanol is much more toxic than ethanol.

Even a small amount can cause blindness.

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By Flunk on 5/5/08, Rating: -1
RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By jlips6 on 5/6/08, Rating: 0
RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By codeThug on 5/8/2008 12:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
very few people on this site have an evolved sense of humor

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By Oroka on 5/16/2008 12:03:20 AM , Rating: 1
Wikipedia is good for pointing you in the right direction, like a friend who knows a little bit about what you were looking for. Dont use it as a source, but usually it is pretty good.

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By littleprince on 5/5/2008 11:45:21 AM , Rating: 4
Methanol is basically an alcohol. Pure alcohol would have similar effects.

Besides, ever look up the components of a li-ion or any other battery?

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By Schrag4 on 5/5/2008 11:58:12 AM , Rating: 2
You're right about current battery technology having some nasty stuff in them, but they're a little harder to crack open and drink. Sure, we have other alcohol products in our houses that may be just as dangerous, but we're not asking 'little billy' to go ahead and pour some of it into their toys to get them working again. Instead, they're in a child-safe cabinet.

So the main advantage of methonal is that it can be stored in liquid form at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure, right? I guess that's a huge advantage over Hydrogen, right? Again, I'm a total chemistry nüb.

Also, methanol goes into the fuel cell, electricity and _______ (what?) comes out. Do I need a diaper for my cell phone?

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By bldckstark on 5/5/2008 12:23:56 PM , Rating: 5
You are assuming that the operator will be pouring methanol into the device. It may have some type of replaceable tank, or if it is marketed by Apple, you will have to send it in to get it replaced every two days.

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By comc49 on 5/5/2008 6:19:50 PM , Rating: 1
i laughed out loud

By StormEffect on 5/5/2008 8:06:50 PM , Rating: 2
You'll notice the toxic effects, while more potent in this case, are identical to those in the kind of alcohol you'd find in a beer, glass of wine, tonic, vodka, etc.

Think about that next time you pop open a brewsky. ^_^

By Bruneauinfo on 5/5/2008 9:59:45 PM , Rating: 2
err... how about the stuff in alkaline batteries?

RE: Methanol - never heard of it
By CD on 5/6/2008 12:28:49 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a total n00b when it comes to chemistry, so I looked up methanol on Wikipedia. I'm not so sure I'd want to power my kids hand-held games with this stuff:

Dude, it's sealed! Its not likely to break w/o a lot of pressure.Even then its too small an amount to cause harm if it touches your skin. And lastly, that lithium ion batt that is in ur pocket rite now is just as dangerous in the same sense(if u want to be insensible, that is)

So please, don't be an alarmist. They not gonna put lawsuit-attracting tech on lawsuit-phile dummies.

P.S. They use methanol in those drag recers.. Go check those buggers out

By winterspan on 5/6/2008 11:01:05 AM , Rating: 3
I'm sorry If I sound like a d*ck, but how on earth have you never heard of methanol? My god, it's one of the most commonly used substances in the world! It has an abundance of uses in both organic and inorganic chemistry -- especially as a solvent, in addition to being used as a combustion fuel in many applications like drag racing and model airplanes. It's colloquial name when used around the house is "wood alcohol" or "wood-grain alcohol", and while dangerous when consumed, it is much safer to handle than say gasoline or hydrogen from a perspective of combustion/explosion.

also, unfortunately, every year it seems a small amount of careless teenagers find some of grandmas methanol "wood alcohol" used for cleaning,etc and they drink it believing it is normal ethanol("drinking alcohol"). It leads to blindness, swelling of the brain, and many times death.

By aquraishi on 5/7/2008 10:01:31 AM , Rating: 2
You might want to cut out Lithium Hydride batteries as well. If you're afraid you kids are going to drink the methanol from the batteries - maybe they'll eat them too?

Honest sir
By FITCamaro on 5/5/2008 12:23:18 PM , Rating: 3
"I'm not trying to drink. This is fuel for my cell phone, PSP, and laptop. Please let me take it on the plane!"

RE: Honest sir
By Omega215D on 5/5/2008 1:16:23 PM , Rating: 2
Figures... airport security officers probably drank antifreeze when they were little. =P

RE: Honest sir
By jlips6 on 5/7/2008 11:56:02 AM , Rating: 2
Buisness man: Excuse me officer, did you eat a lot of paint chips when you were a kid?
Airport security: You mean wall candy?

Stupid questions
By DXRick on 5/5/2008 4:23:40 PM , Rating: 1
The fuel cell is said to be able to run 14 hours in a mobile phone on 10mL of methanol.

How can it burn/use a fuel without creating some kind of output (exhaust)? Does it have a tiny exhaust pipe? Won't this just add to global warming?

RE: Stupid questions
By lightfoot on 5/5/2008 6:14:46 PM , Rating: 2
If you're worried about 10 mL of methanol contributing to global warming then you don't have your priorities straight. Simply breathing for 14 hours will emit more so-called greenhouse gases. Stop breathing first, then worry about the methanol.

This can't be any less efficient than plugging your cell phone into the 12V jack in your car. It might even be better than plugging it into a wall outlet (but unlikely.)

RE: Stupid questions
By Penti on 5/5/2008 6:16:24 PM , Rating: 2
As i did say a little bit up the page, it's a Direct Methanol Fuel Cell

It produces carbon dioxide and water vapor. It uses a catalytic process.

RE: Stupid questions
By Reclaimer77 on 5/5/2008 6:35:17 PM , Rating: 2
Won't this just add to global warming?

Well, your right. That WAS a very stupid question indeed.

By SuckRaven on 5/5/2008 12:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
This is going to be awesome now that the EU is beginning to allow cell phone useage on airlines in-flight. But wait, please everybody remove the batteries from your cell phones due to the highly volatile and flammable methanol it contains. Ooops. Looks like no fuel cell phones for anyone on airplanes. LMAO. =)

RE: Hmmm...
By shaw on 5/5/2008 2:11:43 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think it'll exactly be a mini fuel air bomb. =)

RE: Hmmm...
By nvalhalla on 5/5/2008 3:56:55 PM , Rating: 2
No more than my nail clippers are a dangerous bladed weapon. Logic seems to have been discarded at the FAA.

Love it
By jlips6 on 5/5/2008 11:27:15 AM , Rating: 2
Fuel cells as batteries make all the sense in the world. They look pretty small too. There's a lot of possibilities for this, especially if they just sell methanol cartridges that can refill fuel cells without taking them out.

By Shadowmaster625 on 5/6/2008 1:38:29 PM , Rating: 2
The amount of energy wasted during the construction of these fuel cells will ensure that the devices will never really pay for themselves over the course of their useful lifetime. I wasnt sure how big of a scam fuel cells really were, until I found out that Sony was making them. They may as well call them blu-rays and sell them for 300 bux a pop. I'm sure they could get a few million dumbed down idiots to buy them.

Mobile devices...
By Samus on 5/5/2008 11:14:30 AM , Rating: 1
Sweet, it looks just about the right size to fit in the PSP battery socket.

It's a good idea building the fuel cell into a battery pack (opposed to a capacitor) because it'll allow for simultaneous recharging and better compatibility with on-demand appliances such as camera's.

Hopefully they don't have the problems Sony's batteries are known for *_*

Too bad its Sony
By Reclaimer77 on 5/5/2008 6:34:16 PM , Rating: 1
No thanks. Knowing Sony and how they love to proprietary everything, this will only work in THEIR devices.

Also after installing the fuel cell, it will open up a backdoor trojan via its improved Rootkit 2.0 !

Ok I just made that last part up. But it could happen....

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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