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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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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
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
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.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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