Hitachi has co-developed a prototype direct methanol fuel cell for use in mobile electronics products and intends to launch the product with a compatible PDA in 2005.
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It developed the fuel cell with Tokai, which is a major producer of disposable lighters and aerosol dispensers. Direct methanol fuel cells mix methanol with air and water to produce electrical power.
Hitachi's prototype uses a methanol concentration of around 20%, although the company plans to raise this to around 30% by the time it becomes a commercial product, said Koichi Nemoto, a spokesman for the company's research and development laboratories.
The prototype fuel cell is about the same size as an AA battery.
Hitachi becomes the third Japanese electronics company to disclose plans to produce direct methanol fuel cells commercially.
NEC has demonstrated a prototype unit for use with notebook personal computers which, it said, will become a commercial product sometime next year. The prototype can deliver enough power for around five hours of use and the company's mid-term goal is to develop and sell a 40-hour unit by the end of 2005.
Toshiba has developed a direct methanol fuel cell intended for use as a handheld charger for batteries for mobile electronics products. At present, research has not progressed to the stage where a fuel cell small enough to fit into a portable device, so Toshiba hopes its charger, expected to be commercialised in 2005, will be the next best thing.
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service