Several electronics companies are investigating fuel cells as an alternative to existing nickel cadmium batteries and lithium ion batteries, which will inevitably hit a barrier when portable devices become more power-hungry. Fuel cells, just one of the alternative techniques under investigation, could create a long-lasting and cheap power source in a small package.
Fuel cells generate electricity through a chemical reaction between oxygen and a fuel such as hydrogen or methanol. The cells continue to produce electricity as long there is fuel. Hitachi, Toshiba, NEC and NTT DoCoMo have all announced plans to sell methanol-powered devices.
Hitachi and Tokai said they have created a prototype cartridge about the size of an AA battery that holds 50 cubic centimeters of methanol at a 20 percent concentration. It could power a PDA for six to eight hours, the companies said. They are planning to raise the concentration to 30 percent by the time mass production begins, which would increase cell life.
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