Fuel Cells/Direct Methanol 031031






Fuel Cells/Direct Methanol
 (March 2004) Medis’s CEO tells World Economic Forum audience that microfuel cells cannot be scaled up to run automobiles.   At the Switzerland conference in January,  CEO Robert Lifton says governments should focus on energy preservation and not hope that fuel cell technology will be soon catching up  to meet energy needs.  
He also told that audience that Medis’s working prototypes of the Power Pack fuel cell for powering portable devices would be introduced in May 2004.  Initial pricing for the product is $29.99. Refuelable methanol cartridges would be priced at $1.50.  Each cartridge should power a cell phone for about 12 hours.   

PolyFuel announces breakthrough in a membrane specifically designed for the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) applications.  The newly developed membrane is said to lower methanol and water crossover, have higher fuel efficiency and stability in high levels of methanol concentration.  Leading consumer electronics manufacturers and other developers of DMFC systems are currently are receiving samples.

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(Febuary2004) Hitachi and Tokai develop direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) prototype for use in handheld electronic devices. The DMFC  has a methanol concentration of approximately 20 percent, which is expected to be increased by 10 percent once the units are commercially available.  Hitachi plans to introduce the DMFC by 2005 for use in a compatible personal digital assistant.  
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(January 2004)  Medis’s CEO tells World Economic Forum audience that microfuel cells cannot be scaled up to run automobiles.   At  the Switzerland conference in January,  CEO Robert Lifton says governments should focus on energy preservation and not hope that fuel cell technology will be soon catching up  to meet energy needs.  
He also told that audience that Medis’s working prototypes of the Power Pack fuel cell for powering portable devices would be introduced in May 2004.  Initial pricing for the product is $29.99. Refuelable methanol cartridges would be priced at $1.50.  Each cartridge should power a cell phone for about 12 hours.   
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(January 2004) PolyFuel announces breakthrough in a membrane specifically designed for the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) applications.  The newly developed membrane is said to lower methanol and water crossover, have higher fuel efficiency and stability in high levels of methanol concentration.  Leading consumer electronics manufacturers and other developers of DMFC systems are currently reviewing samples.
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 (Oct. 2003) Toshiba’s new prototype Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC)  fits into the palm of one’s hand.  To create the product, Toshiba minimized the size of auxiliary parts - the fuel tank, the liquid and air transmission pumps, the interface and electric circuits and the DC-DC converter.  The methanol fuel is also stored at a high concentration, allowing the fuel cartridge to be reduced to a volume of only 25 cc. The current prototype will operate for about 20 hours on 25 cc of highly concentrated methanol.

Ordinarily, methanol in a  fuel cell delivers power most efficiently when mixed with water in a 3 to 6 percent methanol concentration - a concentration requiring a fuel tank too large for portable equipment.  To combat the problem, Toshiba developed a system that allows a higher concentration of methanol to be diluted by the water produced as a by-product of the power generation process.  Thus, methanol can be stored at a greater concentration  in a fuel tank less than 1/10 of the size required for the methanol in 3 percent to 6 percent concentrations.

Toshiba’s date for commercializing the DMFC technology  for portables is 2005.
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(September 2002) A Broad Spectrum of Fuel Cell Concepts
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Direct Methanol Fuel Cells With Aerosol Feed

To overcome the problems of methanol crossover in liquid fed PEM fuel cells and to increase the concentration of fuel at the anode, it has been proposed to atomize a solution of methanol and water into a droplet stream of between 0.1 and 10 microns. The resulting system would be smaller and less massive than a liquid fed system.

NASA Tech Briefs
January 2002, pp. 48-49

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Methanol fuel cells may become prime time power for portable electronics.

- Toshiba Corporation has demonstrated a personal digital assistant (PDA) which runs on a direct methanol fuel cell. The fuel cell has an average power output of 3-5 Watts. Toshiba hopes to make the fuel cell available to the public in two years.
- Smart Fuel Cell (SFC) GmbH has begun production of a miniaturized methanol fuel cell that holds about 125 ml of methanol and can power a notebook computer for more than eight hours. SFC expects the cost between $3 and $5 per piece.
- Neah Power Systems has received more than $5 million from Frazier Technology Ventures and Alta Partners in its second round of funding. The company said it is working to develop a battery-sized direct methanol fuel cell in hopes of replacing Lithium-ion batteries in portable electronic devices. The company plans to begin marketing its first fuel cell products by 2004.
-Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation (DMFCC) has been formed to commercialize the direct methanol fuel cell technology developed at the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Southern California (USC). DMFCC, Caltech and USC have signed a letter of intent for DMFCC to acquire rights to 22 issued and over 40 pending U.S. and foreign patents. These include the original and fundamental patent for using methanol dissolved in water as the fuel.
-Casio said it would begin selling fuel cell batteries powered by methanol in 2004. The fuel cells are said to be able to power a laptop personal computer for as long as 20 hours; currently, a “typical” Lithium-ion battery’s life is about four or five hours. Casio’s aim is to make the new fuel cells cheaper than Lithium-ion batteries through mass production.

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