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NEC improves notebook fuel cell technology

NEC claims to have reduced the volume of a prototype fuel-cell for notebook computers by 20% while maintaining the same power output.

The company unveiled the prototype yesterday at the World PC Expo show in Chiba, Japan.

"We've been able to make it smaller and more compact, but it is able to generate the same amount of power even though it is smaller," she said.

The fuel cell's size reduction has resulted in a rise in output density. The latest prototype achieves an output density of 50 milliwatts per square centimetre, up 20% from the June prototype and is now the highest in the industry, NEC claimed.

Except for the size, other specifications remain unchanged.

NEC said the fuel cell can deliver an average of 14 watts of power with the maximum pegged at 24 watts. Output voltage is 12 volts and the fuel cell weighs 900 grams, of which 300 grams is fuel. Running from a full tank of 300 cubic centimetres of fuel, which is methanol with a concentration of 10%, the cell can provide enough power to run a notebook computer for around five hours.

NEC is one of a number of companies investigating the possibility of using methanol fuel cells in notebook personal computers and other portable devices.

In June, NEC announced plans to commercialise the technology before the end of next year, and that it aims to have advanced to a 40-hour fuel cell for notebook computers within two years.

Yesterday NEC reiterated its plans to launch a fuel cell-powered notebook by the end of next year.

Toshiba unveiled a prototype fuel cell for notebook computers at the CeBIT 2003 trade show in Germany, and it hopes to commercialise the technology sometime during 2004.

Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service


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