In "Membrane could rev up fuel cell industry," CNET News.com writes that "start-up PolyFuel has commercially released a membrane for creating fuel cells for laptops and cell phones, a milestone in the budding fuel cell industry."
The honeycombed membrane is for Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC). On one side of the membrane is a mixture of methanol and water. The methanol becomes attracted to the membrane through an electrical charge and reacts to a catalyst, which then releases electrons that power the host device. The byproducts are carbon dioxide and water.
Here is a diagram of the DMFC prototype that replaced a lithium-ion battery on a mobile phone (Credit: PolyFuel).
Several Japanese manufacturers, such as Toshiba, have announced plans to integrate fuel cells into their products. Originally, fuel-powered notebooks and handhelds were supposed to come out in 2004, but most companies have pushed back their plans to 2005.
Thirty-five companies now have DMFC development programs, according to PolyFuel.
Government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, also are looking at fuel cells to run surveillance cameras or sensors that are inconvenient to plug in, said PolyFuel CEO Jim Balcom.
Neither the article nor PolyFuel's website provide information about pricing and general availability. So it's hard to guess if this product will become a hit and if your next cell phone or PDA will be powered by such a device.
Source: Michael Kanellos, CNET News.com, January 18, 2004