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Lithium ion batteries to be thing of past

by on15 April 2008


Fuel cell technology offers alternative

MTI MicroFuel Cells Inc. is the developer of award-winning Mobion cord-free rechargeable direct methanol micro fuel cell technology.  At the 4th International Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Expo held at the end of February in Tokyo, Japan, MTI Micro demonstrated a Mobion powered digital camera grip prototype that works similar to a camera battery-pack grip for digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras.

The prototype design provides twice as much energy as similarly sized existing camera battery-pack grips; and the Mobion camera grip can be refilled with methanol for instant power, without having to recharge from a wall outlet. The lithium ion packs will allow a photographer to snap 1,400 to 2,200 photos, depending on whether or not a flash is used. MTI says its fuel cell will let photographers snap from 2,800 to more than 4,000 shots in one charge.

"There is still one wire left in portable devices today, and that's the charging wire," said MTI Micro CEO, Peng Lim. "And the battery system is not efficient at all. You talk for three hours on your mobile phone and then you have to charge it for half an hour."  The main advantage of fuel cells is that they will last twice as long as a battery pack of the same size, with the recharge time almost nil.

Methanol fuel cells create energy when oxygen and methanol react with catalysts in a membrane inside the fuel cell. The byproducts are electrons, water, and carbon dioxide.  Methanol fuel cells create energy in a membrane when oxygen and methanol react with catalysts inside the fuel cell. The byproducts are electrons, water, and carbon dioxide.  MTI claims that it has also come up with a method to recycle the water within the fuel cell, thereby eliminating the need for a plumbing mechanism to get rid of the water that is the byproduct from the reaction. This also provides the ability to make their fuel cell smaller.

In comparison, a battery takes several hours to charge because it must extract electrons from a socket. As an added benefit methanol is not flammable unless a flame is applied directly to it.  Sony Corporation had a big problem with its lithium ion batteries and had to recall them in 2006 due to numerous fires reportedly attributed to them.

MTI Micro has completed several working prototypes and will devote 2008 to tooling up a factory to mass produce the fuel cells, with the first ones available for the consumer market in 2009, according to Lim. The company has developed a new embedded fuel cell concept model, which will be applicable not only to digital cameras, but also cell phone, PDAs, MP3 players and other handheld electronic devices.

MTI Micro also is launching a line of universal chargers. Connect the universal charger to a cell phone or MP3 player with a USB connector and the charger will recharge it, says MTI Micro.  A universal recharger would certainly be a welcomed item in the current world of proprietary technology that is unique to each brand.

Last modified on 15 April 2008
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