Hydrogen fuel cells may soon replace batteries in Apple devices
The technology would pack a lot of energy into a small space and allow laptops and iPhones to run for weeks without refueling.
Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 02:15 AM
If you thought that hydrogen power was a technology reserved for cars, think again. Apple has recently submitted documents to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for hydrogen fuel cells that may soon provide fuel for all Macbooks and iPhones, reports the Telegraph.
In the patent documents, Apple claims that its hydrogen fuel cells will be significantly smaller and weigh less than batteries. The new technology could also power devices for much longer — possibly for weeks.
"Such fuel cells and associated fuels can potentially achieve high volumetric and gravimetric energy densities, which can potentially enable continued operation of portable electronic devices for days or even weeks without refueling," Apple said.
The documents are not the first sign that Apple is looking to replace battery technology. In October, a previous pair of patent applications were also submitted by the iPhone maker, each involving detailed new ways of squeezing more power from small hydrogen fuel cells.
Since batteries are widely considered an impediment to smartphone development due to their bulky size and relatively short power supply, it's not surprising that Apple is eying an alternative. But because hydrogen is widely regarded as an alternative fuel for cars, the technology might make some people wonder about how it will be used to power small devices. For instance, a necessary byproduct of hydrogen fuel technology is water discharge.
Another major advantage of hydrogen power over batteries is that it's more environmentally friendly. Green-minded electronics manufacturers have long considered batteries an unfortunate necessity because the batteries involve toxic chemicals. Batteries can also be troublesome to recycle.
Aside from environmental concerns, Apple's patent documents also cited geo-political reasons for switching to hydrogen: "Our country's continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling."
"These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources," Apple added.