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Apple patent application  (Source: Apple Insider)

Apple patent application  (Source: Apple Insider)
Apple is looking to create, lighter, more efficient devices using fuel cells

Apple is interested in making fuel cell-powered mobile devices, according to Apple patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to two published Apple patent applications, called "Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device" and "Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device," Apple is looking to build lighter and smaller mobile devices like MacBooks (Air, Pro) by replacing current batteries with a fuel cell system.

This may not come as a surprise to many, since Apple has filed other patent applications for lighter hydrogen fuel cells. Those patents, which were brought to light this past October, described a building process where multiple fuel cells are connected by a power bus in a parallel pattern, and a voltage-multiplying circuit is added for additional voltage to the stack.

Now, Apple hopes to utilize these lighter, more efficient fuel cells in its mobile products in an effort to promote renewable energy sources and offer devices with the ability to run for days or even weeks without refueling, according to the patent applications. The devices will also be lighter and less bulky due to the lack of traditional batteries.

The first patent application, "Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device," states Apple's case for wanting to use fuel cell technology in their devices. While current fuel cell technology for mobile products requires the user to carry a fuel cartridge for recharging purposes, Apple wants to integrate fuel cells right into their electronics.

The second patent application, "Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device," describes how the fuel cell system would work with a rechargeable battery where one would power the other when necessary, and vice versa.

"This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight, and cost of the fuel system," said the second patent application. "This fuel system includes a fuel stack cell which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system."

One challenge will be creating a hydrogen fuel cell system that is cost-effective, according to Apple.

Both patents were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2010.

Sources: CNET, Apple Insider

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RE: not again Apple
By michael2k on 12/23/2011 11:21:51 AM , Rating: 4
Did you read the article? An integrated hybrid battery-fuel cell was Apple's second patent; how many of those do you see? The point is that the patent should cover the implementation, not the idea.

RE: not again Apple
By nolisi on 12/23/2011 11:52:19 AM , Rating: 5
In this case, the implementation is simple- a connection for power plus a bidirectional communications connection (based on the image). Many devices connect to their power source in the same manner. Why should this implementation be patentable? Should other manufacturers be forced to only connect to a fuel cell via a power line only? Or maybe two monodirectional communications interface, thereby complicating the circuitry of other manufacturers implementations.

If there was something unique about this implementation, I might agree. But Apple seems to be on a path of patenting the most basic implementation they can get away with to force other manufactuerers to license or sue.

RE: not again Apple
By dgingerich on 12/23/2011 2:22:23 PM , Rating: 3
If you think this is patentable, I should patent the idea of running crosshatch style when mowing a lawn to improve the appearance of the lawn, then sue all the people who use it without paying me a royalty.

There are patentable new ideas, and the technically "patentable" engineering implementations of things. This is definitely one of the latter, and the biggest reason why we need a full out overhaul of the patent office. It's not that the laws in place aren't good enough, it is that the patent office itself is granting patents that should never be granted.

RE: not again Apple
By nocturne_81 on 12/24/2011 5:22:18 AM , Rating: 2
You have to keep in mind that the USPTO basically only accepts applications.. The process of investigating prior art/patenting is supposed to be done by the filing party (or their attorney) prior to the filing. The USPTO doesn't actually research nor enforce any patent.

We've created another rubber-stamp agency in the name of the almighty 'free-market', putting any actual control in to the hands those who have enough cash to hire a team of lawyers to do their evil bidding.. Meanwhile, I still chuckle at all the 'professional' conservatives around here who take any opportunity to complain about 'big government' and how regulation ruins a free market.

RE: not again Apple
By lewisc on 12/24/2011 3:24:59 AM , Rating: 1
Completely agree with the above. If Apple manage to implement this idea in a new, efficient and cost effective way, why should they not be entitled to patent that application? R&D is expensive; companies (whomever they may be) should be allowed to protect their designs, as without that protection they have no incentive to innovate.

At least in this example there is clear evidence of Apple trying to bring an implementation of a new technology to the market, rather than engaging in defence of more dubious patents. This is a demonstration of what the patent process is for.

RE: not again Apple
By lagomorpha on 12/24/2011 3:59:51 AM , Rating: 4
But that isnt what happened. Companies working on fuel cell technology have been working on the tech hoping to one day sell to laptop and cell phone manufacturers. Apple came along, patented the most obvious implementation, and is going to attempt to troll the entire industry as is usual for them. Apple has brought nothing to the industry yet expects to gain the most.

RE: not again Apple
By nocturne_81 on 12/24/2011 5:28:49 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, looking at the two diagrams given with the filing.. The height of it's complexity is pretty much centering around elementary electronics mixed with basic common sense.. You could simply swap out 'fuel cell' for 'battery', and they'd match hundreds of patent applications leading back decades.

So, I wonder what would have happened if Reese's patented the obvious combination of peanut butter and chocolate.. Apple, you got some chocolate on my peanut butter... *reaches out an open hand, pantomiming a request for payment*

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