We’ve been waiting around for awhile for a laptop that uses methanol fuel cells. Finally, PolyFuel has finished up a working prototype for a fuel cell-powered laptop, the Lenovo T40 ThinkPad. The laptop runs on direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC), and each methanol cartridge provides power for about 10 hours of use. There are some great features to this, and some not so great features.
First off, the battery prototype is quite a bit lighter than the OEM battery the Lenovo uses, which is great, but it is larger, which is not so great. It offers three times the battery life than the current battery, yet 10 hours per charge doesn’t seem like a whole lot of use time. I don’t think I’d enjoy refilling the thing every day, sometimes twice a day. I’m hoping they’ll be able to squeeze a few more hours out of each charge before putting it on the market. Researchers believe that if they can get the fuel cell to operate at 100% capacity, they will be able to get 10 times the power of a comparable Li-Ion battery. That would be pretty stunning. MIT is already on the ball with improving efficiency of DMFCs.
Another great feature is that the fuel cell can be made from biodegradable or recyclable materials – a big plus. And of course the fact that the fuel itself is renewable is a significant feature. But just where to buy and how much methanol cartridges will cost is still going to play a big role in the laptop’s marketability. PolyFuel believes the laptop could be on the market in 2 to 3 years, so they have a little while to figure these details out.
DMFCs are an emerging technology for smaller devices, and we’re likely to see a whole slew of handheld gadgets and smaller computers start to utilize the technology on a larger scale in just a couple years, with wider availability to consumers shortly after that.
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