April 8, 08
MTI Micro to Sell Tiny Methanol Fuel Cell For Portable Electronics

FUEL CELL manufacturer MTI Micro says it's built working prototypes and will have a factory mass producing methanol based fuel cells for portable electronics in 2009.

CEO Peng Lim said the company aims to replace lithium ion batteries with more efficient fuel cells. "There is still one wire left in portable devices today, and that's the charging wire," said Lim. "And the battery system is not efficient at all. You talk for three hours on your mobile phone and then you have to charge it for half an hour." MTI Micro claims that fuel cells last twice as long as lithium batteries.

Methanol based fuel cells produce electric current when methanol reacts with oxygen as it passes through a membrane inside the fuel cell. The byproducts of the reaction are merely water and a little carbon dioxide. MTI Micro says it's developed a way to recycle the water within its fuel cells to eliminate waste water discharge and thereby also make them smaller than earlier prototypes.

The company says it has developed a fuel cell that replaces the add-on lithium ion battery pack on the bottom of a SLR camera. The battery pack lasts for 1,400 to 2,200 photos, depending upon whether flash is employed, while the fuel cell lasts for 2,800 to 4,000 photos. Methanol contains 5,000 watt hours of energy in each liter, according to George Relan, an MTI Micro vice president.

Fuel cell recharge time is short. Recharging a fuel cell only requires squirting in more fuel or putting in a new fuel cartridge. Lithium ion batteries must be placed into a charger that's plugged into a wall socket and typically require several hours to fully recharge.

MTI Micro has developed universal chargers that can recharge the batteries in cell phones, MP3 players or other electronic devices via a USB cord. It also has a fuel cell for SLR cameras and a cell phone with a built-in fuel cell. It reportedly has been working on various projects with Samsung.