Micro Fuel Cells To Gain In Popularity

 â€œOnce fuel cells enter the mainstream market, they will provide significant improvements in energy storage and also allow portable electronic devices to incorporate new features while simultaneously increasing their operating time,” says Frost & Sullivan Industry Manager Sara Bradford.

The hype surrounding micro fuel cells is understandable. Their ability to deliver more energy per volume weight compared to existing lithium-ion rechargeable battery technologies is a much-awaited benefit. It is expected to resolve the issues related to shorter run times between chargings.

“Current advanced lithium-ion rechargeable batteries offer only three hours of continuous operating time while micro fuel cells could provide 20 or more hours of usage time, even in high-drain portable devices,” emphasizes Bradford.

Micro fuel cells score over traditional batteries in many other facets. In addition to being several times lighter, micro fuel cells are simpler and quicker to recharge.

Military applications are potential early-adopters of micro fuel cells, given the need for uninterrupted operation and the desire to lighten the battery load for soldiers.

However, micro fuel cells are likely to encounter several challenges on their path to commercialization. For instance, the selection of toxic materials such as methanol requires greater attention to transport and packaging safety.

Issues such as methanol crossover, catalyst/membrane interface, membrane operating conditions, and electrode flooding in conventional proton exchange membrane (PEM)-based direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) also impede full-blown commercial acceptance.

“Although technology has evolved radically over the past few years, there is still room for improving the current efficiency rates of 20-30 percent closer to 100 percent,” notes Bradford.

Ultimately, standardization of fuel cartridge size, shape, and other form-factor dimensions is essential for the micro fuel cells industry to take off. In response to this need, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is looking at uniform specifications for fuel cell cartridges and their chemical composition.

“By establishing a critical mass for fuel-cell-enabled devices, standardization is likely to be the key factor in giving micro fuel cells a larger share of the retailer’s shelf space,” reiterates Bradford.

Large-scale acceptance of micro fuel cells also hinges upon the ability to efficiently mass-produce them at a reasonable price. Reduced usage of platinum and tie-ups with manufacturing facilities can drastically alter the cost of production.

After commercialization, the cost of the fuel cell system is expected to be in line with the prices of existing rechargeable batteries. Industry participants expect prices for each refill cartridge to fall below $1.

In addition to affordability, the added benefits of quiet operation and environment-friendly features are likely to propel micro fuel cells as the next big thing in power source technologies.

You can read their research overview here.

Emerging Tech

Does a steam-powered spacecraft hold the key to exploring the solar system?

A newly developed spacecraft prototype capable of using steam as a propellent may help the first miners survey potential dig sites and identify space rocks best fit for mining missions. Future versions may be fitted with sensors, allowing…
Gaming

Nintendo 2DS XL vs. Nintendo 3DS XL: Which handheld reigns supreme?

The 3DS family of systems hasn't shown any signs of letting up in the age of the Nintendo Switch. With the New Nintendo 2DS XL in the picture, let's compare the newcomer to the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
Mobile

The Apollo Traveller is the fastest recharging power bank we’ve ever used

Power banks are getting better all the time, but the Apollo Traveller from Elecjet hits new heights in terms of charging and recharging speeds thanks to the use of a graphene composite for cooling. Here's what happened when we tried it out.
Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.
Mobile

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.
Mobile

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.