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Horizon to show fuel cell for charging gadgets

Company is introducing a hydrogen fuel cell that will produce enough juice to charge small electronics, such as smartphones, on the road.

The route to clean energy is through small gadgets, according to Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies.

The company said Monday that it will show off the HydroFill, a home-use fuel cell system suitable for charging small electronics, at this week's Consumer Electronics Show. The product is set for release later in 2010.

The HydroFill extracts hydrogen gas from water and stores it in Hydrostik cartridges with a metal alloy that absorbs the hydrogen. To then charge electronic devices, people use a pocket-size fuel cell charger, called a MiniPak, which pulls hydrogen from the cartridges and a produces an electrical current. The MiniPak can charge devices through a USB port and cell phone adapter, and the company offers an optional AA-battery charger.

The HydroFill system, the Hydrostik cartridges, and a solar panel. Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies

Horizon is touting the HydroFill as a small step on the way to the so-called hydrogen economy, in which hydrogen is an energy carrier and fuel cells make electricity. The company already offers a larger off-grid portable charging system, which uses the same basic technology, and plans to expand into other areas, such as gardening equipment.

The HydroFill system is clean during use because the chemical reaction that happens in hydrogen fuel cells only produces water vapor and no air pollutants.

To charge the hydrogen cartridges, people either plug the HydroFill into an electrical outlet or use a small solar panel. It's also compatible with small wind turbines.

The HydroFill system can pump out 2.5 watts of power, making it suitable for smart phones, small digital cameras, GPS units, and cell phones that typically use 5-volt USB chargers. Pricing for the HydroFill and related components wasn't immediately available.