June 5, 08
STMicroelectronics Creates Micro Fuel Cell With 5X Lifespan

Researchers at Paris, France-based STMicroelectronics have announced that they have developed a hydrogen fuel cell for mobile telephones, which could lessen dependence on electricity to recharge phone batteries by having the ability to be recharged several times before disposal.

The miniature fuel cell is made using microfluidic structures etched into the back surface of silicon, with a reaction interface at the silicon surface. The silicon is paired with a hydrogen-filled cartridge the size of a small cigarette lighter. The final product is due to be commercialized by the end of 2009 or early 2010.

The miniature fuel cell allows the cathode to be protected by a pierced coating that lets in air (oxygen), tops the electrolyte membrane. Below, the anode is accessed via channels that allow the influx of gaseous hydrogen. All of the structures are built on a silicon substrate using microelectronics processes.

The lab said the disposable hydrogen cartridge provides a 500-Wh/kg energy density. The energy is available on demand via electronic control of the chemical reaction. The system can recharge a cell phone battery up to five times before the disposable storage cartridge is spent, the researchers said.

STMicroelectronics, a semi-conductor company, said the gadget was developed for the company Bic, manufacturer of ball pens, lighters and razors.

With the invention, mobile phone users will be able to tap into the fuel cell whenever their mobile phone batteries run out of power.

The hydrogen-powered batteries were expected to hit the shelves in 2010. However, the price of the battery is yet to be determined..