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MTI Micro partners for fuel cell ultra-mobile PC

Rather than look for an electrical outlet in the airport, you can pull out a liquid methanol cartridge to charge your ultra-mobile PC, if this partnership pans out.

MTI Micro and Korean manufacturer NeoSolar said on Thursday they will build prototype ultra-mobile PCs powered by fuel cells.

The two companies said they will develop digital devices that use MTI Micro's Mobion fuel cells, which use liquid methanol cartridges as a fuel.

Dr. James Y. Yu, president of NeoSolar, showing off his company's Wibrain ultra mobile PC and the Mobion chip. NeoSolar

The development could lead to external chargers, snap-on attachments or devices with the Mobion fuel cell embedded in them, the companies said.

Fuel cells are being developed for a wide range of applications, from back-up electricity in buildings and data centers to transportation.

Rather drawing on tanks of hydrogen to make electricity in a fuel cell, MTI Micro's Mobion uses methanol. The advantage is that it's a liquid fuel that can be easily transported and store, say backers. The byproduct of using the fuel is water and carbon dioxide, in relatively small amounts.

MTI has signed on a partners to develop GPS devices and digital cameras that use its fuel cells.

Other consumer electronics manufacturers, including Sharp, are also developing direct methanol to fuel cell chargers.