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.