NTT DoCoMo and Fujitsu Laboratories have developed a prototype fuel cell for recharging mobile phone batteries.
The recharger uses direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology. When a thumb-sized cartridge containing 18 cubic centimeters of methanol at a concentration of 30% is slotted in, the recharger can generate 5.4V at 700 milliamperes, giving enough power for two hours' continuous use, according to DoCoMo manager Kazuhiko Takeno.
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The prototype recharger unit consists of a cradle 152mm long, 57mm wide and 16 mm thick, with a volume of 180 cubic centimetres and a weight of 190g, according to DoCoMo.
Takeno said development of a commercial version would be complete by early 2006, which would be much smaller and lighter than the prototype version and contain a cartridge capable of charging a phone three times.
DoCoMo wants the slimmed-down, juiced-up fuel cell to allow users to recharge their mobile phones on the go, at places without access to the plugs needed for conventional chargers.
"We'd like the recharger to be something you could slip into your handbag and use whenever you want, whenever you want to," said Takeno.
DoCoMo and Fujitsu are also working on miniaturising the DMFC technology to replace the lithium ion batteries commonly used in mobile phones. But this will not happen until 2007 or later, because of technical issues, according to Takeno.
Toshiba, Hitachi, Casio and Sony are all working on DMFC technologies for portable devices. Toshiba has said it will sell fuel cell rechargers for mobile phones in 2005, while Hitachi is to release a fuel cell for portable electronic devices in 2005.
Paul Kallender writes for IDG News Service