Wireless Systems Design

Compact Fuel Cell Is In Development

Development is underway by Neah Power Systems to create a small, compact fuel cell that is capable of powering mobile electronics products. This might include products like notebook PCs or advanced communications gear. The development will center around the use of direct methanol micro-fuel-cell technology, which is based on a patent-pending silicon-based design architecture. This architecture should enable high levels of efficiency and high power densities in small physical form factors.

Given the limitations of traditional batteries, this architectural development is significant. A critical power gap exists for today's mobile electronics. In the years to come, this gap may continue to grow. If it is not properly and quickly addressed, the gap will contribute to compromises in the design and usage behavior of mobile electronics devices.

Notebook personal computers and other portable electronic devices are becoming more powerful and full featured. Consequently, they are demanding more power. With the advent of persistent wireless connections like Wi-Fi, portable products also may be used for longer periods of time while remaining disconnected from AC power.

This new design architecture promises to address this gap. It achieves its breakthrough performance by enabling all-day notebook computing on a single charge. That's a 2X to 3X improvement in energy storage capacity versus today's rechargeable batteries. Of course, some challenges are inherent in traditional PEM-based micro-fuel-cell design, including low efficiencies, low power densities, large size, and high cost. These worries are expected to be overcome, however, by this silicon-based design architecture.

The key is its porous silicon substrate, which allows for high levels of electrochemical activity and electricity generation. The result is higher levels of efficiency and much higher power densities when compared with traditional PEM-based designs. Consequently, the new fuel-cell architecture has the potential to be much smaller than those designs. It could fit within—not outside of—a notebook personal computer's internal battery cavity.

For a development update or more information on this silicon-based fuel-cell architecture, contact the company directly.

Neah Power Systems
22118 20th Ave. Southeast, Suite 142, Bothell, WA 98021; (425) 424-3324, FAX: (425) 483-8454, www.neahpower.com.

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