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by Mike Zazaian October 20, 2006 - 2:40pm, 1 Comment

Enerage to Power Laptops With Multi-Fuel Fuel Cells

Fuel cell company Enerage plans to demonstrate a 25-watt multiple-fuel laptop fuel-cell early in 2007.

The new fuel-cell can be powered by methane, butane, methanol, ethanol or other hydrocarbons, making the technology entirely unique from other single-fuel fuel cells. It also boasts nearly 15 times the energy density of traditional Li-on notebook batteries, with a usage time of more than 10 hours between charges.

The increased variability comes from a new direct oxidation technique designed by Enerage CEO Mark Wu. In such a direct oxidation system the membrane of the fuel cell releases electrons when hydrocarbons or other fuels come in contact with it. The fuel cell, which only takes 2 to 3 seconds to fully recharge, is able to employ multiple fuel sources because the cell automatically adjusts the air to fuel ratio based on the type of fuel tank being used.

Enerage’s new upcoming fuel cell also overcomes a number of implementation issues that have made notebook manufacturers hesitant to adopt fuel-cell technology. Whereas other fuel cells would require a complete redesign of existing notebook battery ports, Enerage’s product uses the same electrodes as those used in standard Lithium-ion batteries, allowing for greater compatibility and easier implementation. Use of a smaller form factor than previous prototypes has also made the fuel cell more viable to manufacturers.

It’s not all roses and lollipops for Enerage researchers, however. Previous prototypes have been plagued by enormous internal temperatures, reaching 500 to 600 degrees Celsius internally at peak use. While the exterior surface of the fuel cell remains relatively cool, consumers may not be comfortable with volcanic temperatures being achieved just inches away from their typing fingers. However, Sony battery users will be relieved to hear that there have been no documented instances of the fuel cells exploding.

Wu said the company will focus on reducing these internal temperatures as it leads up to small-scale production of the fuel cell early next year.

Read cnet personal computer blog
Press Release from Enerage