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Apples Latest Trick! Hydrogen Fuel Cell to Power Mobile Devices

Posted: December 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Technoid Gadget News | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Apples Latest Trick! Hydrogen Fuel Cell to Power Mobile Devices

Apples Latest Trick - Hydrogen Fuel Cell to Power Mobile Devices - Patent Diagram

In it’s latest patent filings, Apple is proposing a hydrogen fuel cell that can be integrated directly into mobile devices, rather than, simply a means of charging it. The device would never need recharging, rather it would need its recyclable fuel cell refilled. The patent diagrams also show that the design for the system would employ a small rechargeable a battery that would be charged by the fuel cell, but could also send a charge back to run the fuel cell. Such a system could in theory run for days, or even weeks before having to replace the fuel cartridge.

As always with Apple Inc, this isn’t NEW technology, way back in 2008 Sharp released a prototype Direct Methanol Fuel Cell phone:  www.slashphone.com Multi purpose hydrogen chargers have been around for years: http://spectrum.ieee.org. Motorola also has a prototype Hydrogen Fuel Cell Phone floating about someplace, doubtless they forgot to patent the gadget?Apple patent applications are always an amusement, take someone elses technology and lock it away, claim ownership.

Apples Latest Trick - Hydrogen Fuel Cell to Power Mobile Devices - Patent Diagram

Two recent patent applications by Apple indicate the company is looking at developing a hydrogen fuel cell system to complement the rechargeable batteries in a “portable computing device” – which could refer to Apple’s range of mobile iDevices, its MacBook range of notebooks – or both.

Fuel cells are of course, a means for generating electricity by pushing compressed hydrogen though a membrane and mixing it with oxygen in the air. The only other output is water. It’s a technology that has been widely proposed as an alternative means for powering cars and trucks, but thus far, has not caught on to the extent that some had hoped.

The applications say the technology could potentially power portable electronic devices for “days or even weeks,” which would be sure to silence critics and users who have long complained about the poor battery life of not just Apple’s, but all mobile computing devices.

In these latest patent filings, Apple is proposing a fuel cell that can be integrated directly into a portable device, rather than, as other’s have proposed, a means of charging it. Thus, the device would never need recharging at all, instead it would need a have its recyclable fuel cartridges refilled.

One of Apple’s patent applications says its fuel cell design would be capable of both providing power to and receiving power from a rechargeable battery, which “eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system.” Such a system could also offer instant refueling by swapping in a full fuel cartridge instead of waiting by an electrical outlet until a battery recharges.

Despite improvements in battery technology in recent years, as well as more energy efficient chips, poor battery life continues to be the bane of the mobile gadget lover’s existence. The idea of using hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices isn’t new. Horizon’s MINIPAK and Toshiba’s Dynario that extend the power of portable devices have been on the market for a couple of years now. But despite being portable, they aren’t exactly small enough to be integrated into a mobile phone unless a return to the days of the 80s-style “brick” is on the cards.

One of the major stumbling blocks for implementation of widespread fuel cell technology is the lack of an infrastructure to support it. If Apple were to sell hydrogen fuel cell powered Macbooks, they would also have to develop a means for creating the fuel to fill the cartridges and for selling them through their Apple stores, which they likely are investigating as well.

The patent diagrams also show that the design for such a system that would also employ a small rechargeable a battery that would be charged by the fuel cell, but could also send a charge back to run the fuel cell. Such a system could in theory run for days, or even weeks before having to replace the fuel cartridge.

Both patent applications were published by the US Patent & Trademark Office on December 22, but the first, entitled, “Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device,” was filed in August 2010, while the second, “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device,” which was a continuation-in-part to the first, was filed in April 2011. This suggests Apple has been working on a replacement battery technology for some time – and they definitely aren’t the only ones.

If and when hydrogen fuel cell technology makes it into mobile devices is still anyone’s guess. But those salivating at the thought of a mobile phone or notebook computer that can operate for days or weeks without a recharge and can be refueled in seconds will be hoping it is sooner rather than later.

Not mentioned in the patent application is what Apple would do with the very small amount of water that the fuel cell would produce. Cleary simply pumping it out the bottom of a Macbook wouldn’t work, and storing it would add weight. They might also be working on a way to force it to evaporate, but that might be subject to environmental humidity levels. In any case, it’s clear that Apple understands the hurdles it faces as was also noted in the patent applications by the authors discussing how it is “extremely challenging” to figure out a way to create a hydrogen fuel cell system that would be both portable and in the end, cheap enough that the resulting device would still be price competitive. Thus, a fuel cell based Macbook likely is still a ways off into the future.

source: physorg

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