Print 38 comment(s) - last by beemercer.. on Jun 11 at 2:12 AM

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

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.

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.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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