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Tiny consumer fuel cells hit the big time
110 patents later, MTI Micro produces a small consumer fuel cell that will run for 5500 hours.
Thu, Jan 08, 2009 at 2:43 AM
Image: MTI MicroFuel Cells Inc.
The dream of being able to have power instantly available, anytime and anyplace, may now be a reality with the advent of efficient, light weight micro fuel cells. The company MTI Micro, recently announced a major breakthrough in their Mobion chip fuel cell system. They were able to achieve 5500 hours
of continuous power with only a 30% degradation of the fuel pack. Compare that to a standard Lithium Ion battery which in about half the hours (500 charging cycles) experiences a 50% degradation.
But perhaps more significant than the performance in the lab, is the breakthrough in the commercialization of a fuel cell technology that was never considered feasible. Mobion advances a common technology called DMFC (Direct Methanol Fuel Cell) by eliminating the complex "miniature plumbing system" normally required to deliver methanol into the reaction compartment of the fuel cell. This substantially reduces both manufacturing costs and size of the device (it is roughly the same size as an iPhone).
DMFC's are a type of proton exchange membrane fuel cell, which transforms the chemical energy release when a gas reacts with oxygen on a catalyst (like platinum) to form electrical energy. Methanol is used instead of hydrogen, as it contains a great deal of potential energy and does not need to be compressed. In normal DMFC's, water would need to be transfered from the anode side to the cathode side of the fuel cell using pumps, complicated re-circulation loops or other micro-plumbing tools. Mobion patented the technology to transfer H2O directly.
The other remarkable development just announced a few weeks ago, is MTI's innovative self-sufficient power pack which gives 25 hours of power to charge your computer or other device by inserting a methanol cartridge into the fuel cell. Despite the fact that methanol is quite flammable, the device is considered totally safe and is even approved for air travel. Read up on these cool new fuel cells on MTI's website
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