Fuel cell developer UltraCell has come up with a new fuel cell power source for portable electronic devices that it says has twice the energy density of lithium batteries. That's potentially very good news for power-hungry mobile gadgeteers.
UltraCell's reformed methanol fuel cell, or RMFC, technology uses a micro reformer to generate fuel-cell-ready hydrogen from a highly concentrated methanol solution. The new portable power system has the density of a hydrogen fuel cell but uses readily available, low-cost methanol fuel in a compact package.
The technology is designed to work in a user-friendly package which, with the push of a power button, self starts and feeds power as needed. The system's spent fuel canisters can be instantly "hot swapped," as needed, to provide continuous power in any remote situation. The system can also serve as a portable recharging power supply.The UltraCell 25, which is designed to provide up to 25 watts of continuous power to consumer electronic devices is an extension of an UltraCell prototype the company created for the military. The original system, the XX90, was designed for up to 45 watts of continuous power. Subsequently, the U.S. Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center awarded UltraCell a contract to accelerate its development of a more compact portable system to run at 25 watts.
The UltraCell25 will be available in 2006 for professional, industrial and mobile-computing applications. It weighs 40 ounces and is about the size of a paperback novel.