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Methanol fuel cells for gadgets gain steam

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell is working with Samsung on methanol cartridges for small electronics chargers while Toshiba introduces its own methanol fuel cell in Japan.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell has licensed a patent from CalTech to build methanol-based gadget chargers, a week after Toshiba took the wraps off its own portable fuel cell.

The patent will allow Direct Methanol Fuel Cell to design smaller portable charging packages for devices, such as mobile phones, said Viaspace, the parent company of Direct Methanol Fuel Cell. The company said Monday it has a partnership with Samsung and others to commercialize methanol fuel cartridges.

Toshiba introduced a methanol fuel-cell charger for Japan last week. Toshiba

A direct methanol fuel cell converts the liquid fuel methanol into electricity through a chemical reaction between oxygen and methanol. It's a technology that a number of electronics companies are looking at to extend the life of power-hungry devices, such as laptops and mobile phones.

Last week, Toshiba unveiled the Dynario, an external charging device which is now available in Japan at a cost of about $325. The company has not said if it has plans to introduce the methanol fuel cell in other countries.

The Dynario can store enough energy to charge about two mobile phones and it uses an embedded lithium ion battery to store electricity.