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Methanol Fuel-Cell Battery For Your Laptop?

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the yes-please dept.

Technology 179

Nick writes: "I ran across this accidentally when I was researching fuel cell cars. They have come out with a little methanol fuel-cell battery they hope will be more powerful than lithium ion batteries, at competitive prices too! (well, in five years maybe) Also check out howstuffworks for a great article on fuel cells in general." Beating Li-Ion batteries by a factor of ten is a very worthy goal.

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179 comments

Longer battery life. (1)

Nijika (525558) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570458)

Not to bring up transmeta, but I would give up a lot of speed and power if I could get a device that lasted longer on the road. I wouldn't give up any storage space. The Palm's a great example, but even that only lasts 2 weeks tops on 2 AAA batteries. I'm talking like 2 months or longer.

I'd like to see this come about.

Re:Longer battery life. (3, Informative)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570554)

The Palm's a great example, but even that only lasts 2 weeks tops on 2 AAA batteries.
2 weeks? Are you leaving it on all the time? I usually get at least as many months out of mine. Even when I was scribbling class notes into one, it still got fairly good battery life. It's set to shut off by itself after one minute of inactivity, though I usually shut it off before that kicks in.

Re:Longer battery life. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570605)

The Cambridge Z88 laptop will run 20 hours on 4 AA batteries. The AC adapter port is designed to take 6 volts. I did a little wiring and hooked up a 6 volt lantern battery to the AC port. No idea how long that would have lasted me :-).

completitive? (-1, Offtopic)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570461)

maybe the next version of slashcode needs spellcheck. just a thought : )

are you kidding? (-1, Funny)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570473)

spellchecks are evil because MS uses them in word. anything remotely related to MS is banned here.

Methanol? (1)

CoolVibe (11466) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570469)

Ooh, does that mean we can drink our batteries when we run out of beer?

Neat! :)

Moron (4, Funny)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570493)

I hope you were kidding about that... Methanol is highly toxic and leads to blindness and kidney failure.

Then again, I haven't read a good Darwin award lately....

Re:Moron (1)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570580)

I hope you were kidding about that... Methanol is highly toxic and leads to blindness and kidney failure.

No, they weren't kidding. You know, just ship a little warning label [64.29.24.139] with each battery. No big deal.

Sheesh, you environmental guys.

Re:Moron (1)

_avs_007 (459738) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570682)

Yeah, just look at Preparation-H. There is a warning label saying do not eat. You know somebody called the company to complain that they ate the tube, and it didn't cure their hemmoroids.

And what about those drying pellets that comes with electronic equipment? You know somebody called up the company/hospital saying something like, "The free chicklets that came with my new stereo system made me sick to my stomach when I tried it"

Re:Moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570745)

It was funnier when the comedian on tv said it rather than when you rehashed it -- badly.

Re:Moron (1)

_avs_007 (459738) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570785)

I wasn't trying to be funny, I was being serious. You think companies put warning labels on their products out of good will? Shyeah, whatever. They put it there for liability, usually as a result of some mishap.

Re:Methanol? (1)

Nf1nk (443791) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570538)

You would have to be blind to try that

Repeat after me

Methanol != ethanol
Methanol != ethanol

This was posted before... (3, Informative)

diadem (464192) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570470)

A similar article was posted here before, dealing with Methane batteries for cell phones.

old news (0, Flamebait)

fitsnips (187974) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570474)

Didn't slashdot cover this like last year? Great now we are recycling old news now?

Re:old news (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570561)

What, you mean we haven't recycled stories before?

Just remember: (4, Funny)

mrpotato (97715) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570478)

don't drink the batteries: methanol will get you blind, ethanol will get you drunk.

Re:Just remember: (1)

dynoman7 (188589) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570495)

don't drink the batteries: methanol will get you blind, ethanol will get you drunk

...and methane just stinks.

Re:Just remember: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570544)

Methane is odorless, you idiot. They add a chemical to natural gas lines to make it smell so you can detect a leak.

Re:Just remember: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570818)

Methane is odorless, you idiot

No it isn't. It reeks! And natural gas is Propane, btw

Re:Just remember: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570557)

Methane and methanol differ by the OH functional group and radically changes the identity and behavior of the molecule. The "meth" prefix means a single carbon root, -ane means its all single bonded hydrogens, -anol means its a single alcohol functional group.

Good luck drinking methane.

Re:Just remember: (0)

jon787 (512497) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570755)

My friend took a swig of Ethanol (eythal alcohol) by accident one day in chemistry class. It is not the same a drinking alcohol just because alcohol is in the nae.

Re:Just remember: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570832)

In your case it is the same. Common chemicals like ethanol and dihydrogen monoxide have common names too, simply because they were discovered before chemistry existed.

it remains to be seen... (5, Insightful)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570482)

It remains to be seen how people will react to having to 'refill' their laptops. It won't take too many methanol spills on the carpeting for somebody to bail on the whole idea.

Batteries suck compared to fuel cells, certainly, but just plugging the laptop in to recharge is about the nicest possible way to deal with power. I know I'd rather carry around an AC adapter than a container of methanol. Further, I don't have to run to the store to buy more electricity when I run out; people may react badly to needing to buy refills.

I love the concept as much as the next guy, but I've been wondering if the practicalities won't end up killing it in the marketplace.

Re:it remains to be seen... (2)

turbine216 (458014) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570506)

the nice thing about methane and methanol is that they can both be purchased in self-contained units, much like butane and the stuff that powers gas grills. In most cases involving fuel cells, the actual refilling is done not by pouring or injecting, but by simply replacing a gas cartridge.

Carts Re:it remains to be seen... (4, Informative)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570536)

Prototypes were depicted as using sealed, pen-sized cartridges. No filling necessary. I imagine that screwing them into the fuel cell would break a seal allowing a controlled stream of methanol to be fed into the reformer.

I suppose that the manufacturer would initially charge a lot for these, but refill kits would appear shortly.

Stefan

Re:Carts Re:it remains to be seen... (2, Insightful)

thetechweenie (60363) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570593)

So,
It would be something like CO2 cartridges for my BB gun or a cheap paintball gun? I would think that they would need to be recycled if this were the case. That would be a huge waste. Not to mention that they probably wouldn't let these things on airplanes. (That is, if they are flamable.) I don't think that we will ever see something like this in the future. I couldn't even board my last flight unless I handed over my cigarette lighter.

Re:Carts Re:it remains to be seen... (0)

seann (307009) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570606)

thats not a cigarette lighter
its a:
- time bomb
- circumvention device
- flame thrower
- penetration device
- lock pick
- miny torch
- welder aparatis
- lock deicer
- fire starting tool

Re:it remains to be seen... (5, Insightful)

jht (5006) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570558)

I think ultimately you'll see disposable fuel cell "batteries", and/or an infrastructure where you can buy a little cheap pre-filled tank of fuel for it, much as you buy a battery off the shelf today.

Only some of the more esoteric applications will have end-users directly filling the tank themselves. But if you think about it, most portable power applications today excepting laptops) use a disposable battery - so that is easy to replace with compact, disposable tanks. I think laptops will have hybrid power systems, with perhaps a Li-Ion battery embedded in the machine, and a small fuel cell to provide continuous charging of the battery - and it'd run off AC power when stationary.

Given the higher power output and density of a fuel cell versus even a Li-Ion battery, having spares handy isn't quite so important. You don't have to stay so close to a refill point when your runtime is measured in days instead of hours.

Re:it remains to be seen... (3, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570574)

Who says it has to be the "only" power source in the laptop? Why couldn't you also have a Li-Ion battery and an AC charger as other power options, and swap as the need fits.

I'm sure that the airlines would have an issue with me using a methane-powered device on an airplane... so plug in the Li-Ion. Or, you run out of methane... plug in the AC and Li-Ion for recharging at the same time. It's just as easy as carrying around a spare battery like a lot of people do already.

MadCow.

Re:it remains to be seen... (2)

edashofy (265252) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570841)

Actually, you're allowed to carry a small amount of methanol on an airplane, as it's classed the same way as alcohol.

Hydrogen fuel cells were under consideration for this same purpose, but were largely abandoned precisely because you're not allowed to carry hydrogen on an airplane.

Re:it remains to be seen... (3, Funny)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570589)

It remains to be seen how people will react to having to 'refill' their laptops. It won't take too many methanol spills on the carpeting for somebody to bail on the whole idea.
At least it wouldn't raise the questions that an ethanol fuel cell would raise. "Honestly, boss, the Everclear is for my computer!"

Re:it remains to be seen... (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570614)

Well, I'd rather carry a container of methanol than an AC adapter and a really loooooong cord.

Re:it remains to be seen... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570636)

You were concerned about the cost of methanol
verses the cost of electricity. In fact they
both cost about the same. One gallon of gasoline
in a car engine produces about 100-200 MJ of
energy, or 27-55 KWhr. This costs about $1.30
meaning that a gasoline engine produces usable
energy at a cost of about 2-5 cents per KWHr,
which is roughly what it costs from your
electricity supplier.

Of course Methanol has a lower energy density
than gasoline, however, fuel cells are much
more efficient than gasoline engines.

It is also worth noting that it takes much less
time to recharge a methanol battery (replace
the methanol container) than to recharge a Li-Ion
battery.

Even if you were to refill the battery directly
with methanol, it would far more likely come
in an aerosol form than a pourable liquid. In fact
this is the way liquid cigarette lighters are
refilled, without any spillage problems.

Re:it remains to be seen... (1)

johnnythm (100660) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570803)

Well, if anyone remembers Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome - don't say we didn't warn you! Seriously though, don't you think that this has taken a bit longer than is necessary? I mean, look at public transportation, CNG vehicles have been driving around for the past couple years! Having to work with a fuel cell rather than a traditional source of transportable energy ie Li-ion or Alkaline batteries is not a deterrant or at least it shouldn't be. This is the next logical step in energy advancement and should be welcomed with open arms! The problems that are being discussed as far as plugging into wall sockets to recharge, or wondering if methanol spillage will be a problem are not moot points, but rather mundane. This may lead to a dramatic change is the way we use and understand energy. Learning new ways of accomplishing the same task is not aweful. If we haven't learned that by watching the computer industry's metamorphasis we are doomed! Now if only we could figure out a way to harness our own methane...

Re:it remains to be seen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570836)

> I know I'd rather carry around an AC adapter
> than a container of methanol.

I'm guessing the FAA feels the same way. "Sir, please remove the fuel cartridges from your bag!" Mmmm...inflammable liquids in enclosed spaces...

Methanol fuel cell (3, Interesting)

SolidCore (250574) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570487)

Hazards incurred by gasoline releases are greater than those of methanol releases, and will persist much longer in the environment.A recent study performed by EA Engineering examined what the costs would be to implement different methanol retail systems. They concluded that a new methanol retail system could be installed for approximately $70,000 and an existing gasoline tank could be cleaned, the pumps and plumbing replaced for as little as $19,000.

sounds like... (2, Informative)

turbine216 (458014) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570488)

...a previous slashdot story [slashdot.org] involving Motorola's attempt at powering cell phones with similar methane-powered fuel cells.

Re:sounds like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570600)

Only sounds similar if you can't tell the difference between methane and methanol.

Wonderful (0, Offtopic)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570496)

So... when can I play Civ III, Rogue Spear, or Counterstrike on the whole trainride to Florida to visit my grandparents over a Bluetooth network?
I saw that the new Dell laptops can come with the proper network adapters.

Re:Wonderful (0)

jon787 (512497) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570788)

You mean the Inspiron 8100. those a nice little laptops. My Dad got one with Win2k and my Sister got one with WinME.
It is better than our previous laptop with the little plug in network card where we had to tape the ethernet line straight up in t on the 8100 opens out the side instead of to the front which is nice.

I'll get one as soon as it comes out. (3, Funny)

Typingsux (65623) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570503)

That way, instead of having to keep a dog and blame it for my farting, I can say it was the laptop again.

am I the only one... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570505)

...who would rather have his dick in Kate Winslet's mouth right now?

Worrisome... (2)

BoarderPhreak (234086) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570514)

There's a lot of concern with battery chemicals leaking out and contaminating... Whatever. I'd be especially worried about leaking methanol, which is much more flowing than a paste or gel often found in typical batteries. Not only that, but seals could fail or you could overfill them, etc. and you'd end up with this stuff running around your laptop.

Besides, don't fuel cells create a lot of heat?

The benefit is you get lots of drinking water and fresh air while using your laptop! :-D

Methanol toxicity (5, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570629)

While you certainly shouldn't start downing shots of methanol, it really isn't terribly toxic by comparison. If you got it on your clothes it would simply evaporate. The heavy metal sludge you find in most modern batteries makes methanol look pretty tame by comparison. It also means that the environmental impact of the used up batteries will be far less than current batteries.

Why methanol? (3, Funny)

Manuka (4415) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570516)

Someone needs to come up with an ethanol fuel cell, and when you run out, just fill it back up with cheap vodka.

Great news everybody! (4, Interesting)

Exmet Paff Daxx (535601) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570518)

That guy on the bus who plays Quake on his notebook computer just got ten times as annoying!

Seriously though, how do you recharge a fuel cell. The howstuffworks article covers hydrogen fuel cells which you recharge by... inserting more hydrogen. They also make water, bad for notebooks. This prototype looks like a sealed system and being billed as a replacement for Li-Ion, which means it's rechargeable and doesn't leak. "Carbon nanotubes" are very cool [rdg.ac.uk] but there's nearly no mention of an application to new forms of fuel cells in the literature [msu.edu]. This press release is great but... where's the science?

Just curious.

Earlier stories on Fuel Cells (3, Informative)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570696)

Seriously though, how do you recharge a fuel cell?

There were these links:

Looks like you might just have to fuel it up (nb the motorola story). Just don't be a heavy smoker. [smile]

Small? Memory? Recharging time? (3, Interesting)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570532)

What I'd like to know is whether these batteries will have a so-called memory. Until Li-Ion batteries became common in laptops, cell phones and camcorders, I remember that you had to completely empty out the batteries before recharging them or you'd drastically shorten their lives. For example, let's say you have a 30-minute battery for your camcorder. If you used it for 15 minutes and then charged it, then from now on, the battery will only last 15 minutes. This can be a little annoying for a camcorder, because if your battery was partially empty and you wanted it full to record some event, you'd have to plan ahead and leave the camera running to empty out the battery, then wait several hours for it to completely recharge. (Yeah, recharging times were very slow on these batteries.) On the other hand, while this is merely annoying for cameras, think of the effect it has on laptops--you'd have to leave your laptop running until it runs out of power and shuts off abruptly. This is a constant problem for computers. Li-Ion batteries are not subject to this "memory" problem, and they also charge pretty quickly, if I know what I'm talking about. For example, the battery in my phone lasts about three days (one if I talk a lot) and takes only hours to charge. (I don't know exactly how many hours because I've never sat there watching the damn thing.) If these fuel-cell batteries are small, don't have a memory, last longer AND have much faster charging times, then I think they will eventually replace Li-Ion batteries.

Re:Small? Memory? Recharging time? (2)

jht (5006) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570594)

Memory effect isn't even that much of a problem with current Ni-Cad batteries, unless you habitually do a partial discharge. A couple of partials won't kill them, though running the battery through a conditioning cycle will usually help if it does happen.

Li-Ion batteries will eventually die - they typically are rated for about 1K discharge cycles, IIRC. And when they die, they're more expensive than NiCad or NiMh batteries to replace.

Re:Small? Memory? Recharging time? (2, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570598)

Fuel cells aren't really batteries at all in the normal sense. They aren't closed systems, so you don't recharge them, you refill with more methanol. This is a good thing, as it would only take a matter of a minute to get from empty to full, so no more need to have two sets of batteries lying around.

Since they aren't recharged (pushing the chemical reaction in reverse) there is no memory problem either.

/Janne

Re:Small? Memory? Recharging time? (2)

hamjudo (64140) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570638)

Recharging is just filling a little tank with fluid, almost exactly like adding more fluid to a lighter. Tanks have no memory.

It's a lot cheaper to make many different sized tanks than to make many different sized batteries.

Maximum tank size will probably be limited by safety concerns.

Re:Small? Memory? Recharging time? (2, Insightful)

rhekman (231312) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570715)

If these fuel-cell batteries are small, don't have a memory, last longer AND have much faster charging times, then I think they will eventually replace Li-Ion batteries.

Don't forget thermal deficiencies!

The thing I look forward too with fuel-cells is trouble-free operation at low temperature. For me, living in North Dakota, if I leave my Li-Ion based laptop in my vehicle for any length of time in the winter, the cells will lose their charge. If it's long enough, I'll even lose the backup battery and the time info. If fuel-cells give me reliable backup power at zero farenheit, plus longer life, sign me up!

Regards,
Reid

And my reply is the same... (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570534)

...explosive laptops, as Processors become more and more difficult to cool, even.

What fun.

Re:And my reply is the same... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570844)

> ...explosive laptops, as Processors become more
> and more difficult to cool, even.

Look out for portable "nuculear" packs! Get them at the corner market and power your laptop! That way, if the plane runs out of power, just insert another stock o' plutonium and back to cruising n' drinkin' altitude it is!

the Al Gore robot's been using one for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570548)

I even saw it during the presidential debates...

enough with the spills already! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570555)

People, people, people... if methanol fuel cells become a reality, you can be sure they will be fairly well self-contained. If you're so worried about spills, do you were a hazmat suit everytime you fill up your car with EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS AND FLAMABLE GASOLINE?

I grow tired of the "gee that can't work, it might spill" everytime fuel cells are mentioned on slashdot.

Cell operation life (2, Interesting)

bofh31337 (521771) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570573)

I would think this would be hampered by its limited cell life. The platinum catalyst used by the cells electrodes will be poisoned by the methanol.

The basic problem is that the power storage technology has not kept up with the large demands for power.

We need something non-flammable and far less toxic. Maybe a zinc-air solution.

Too bad (2)

r_j_prahad (309298) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570575)

When I first glanced at the title, I thought it said "methane" powered. I just had a bowl of chile beans, a pickled egg, and a beer for lunch. If you could power a computer with methane, then I'm ready to light up a server room full of IBM z390's.

airplanes? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570583)

Ya but can ya take them on airplanes? Could they be turned into mini methane bombs?

Well, is it so simple (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570585)

I spent a few moments yesterday cutting open the dead battery from my Sony VAIO 505TX laptop. My thinking was the "battery" for the laptop was a few Lithium-Ion cells, which I could pick up at one of the local electronics outlets and replace (keeping in mind mA/Hrs, charging profiles, etc.) As luck would have it -- there were three US18650GR Sony Energytec cells, which are a special 3.6v battery only available from Sony's Energy Products division -- a circuit board which monitors the life, strength and other vital stats of the battery. So short of finding an industrial supplier and getting the cells, I can forget rebuilding or even enhancing my laptop battery, the one which works with my charger.

It's a possibility that I could get a Fuel-Cell battery, Lead acid, etc, but the only way I could use it with my laptop would be through the external powersupply connector, which means all the power management tools I normally have would know squat about the remaining time on the battery, since it would think it's running off an adaptor.

Neat idea, but some solutions aren't so straight forward. For now I'll use the charger to run it, and a Tripp Lite inverter to run it while away from home, but in my vehicle.

Methanol from my @ss (2)

Milican (58140) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570591)

Finally, a notebook that will capitalize on the farts from my tacos. No more dead batteries, no more charging at inopportune times. A seemingly endless supply of noxious power. My co-workers will be pleased.

JOhn

Re:Methanol from my @ss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570736)

Hey, if you want to be funny you should be smart first. You're thinking methane, and yes, there is a difference.

Methanol huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570597)

Wonder if they could get something that worked on Ethanol. Then maybe to refuel your laptop you could just go get a shot of Rum 151 at the local bar.

Technology Review article (1)

mc2Kleen (190152) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570637)

Check the November issue of Technology Review. It has an accessible article about this very subject:

http://www.techreview.com/magazine/nov01/voss.as p

It's quite interesting.

Slow news day? (1)

nochops (522181) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570641)

From a couple 'o months ago:
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/10/03/1350 20 2&mode=thread

Chemistry Lesson (4, Funny)

sterno (16320) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570665)

Okay folks:

Ethanol - the alcohol that makes beer, wine, and liquor much more fun.

Methanol - the alcohol that, if you drink it, will at the very least blind you and probably do a bunch of other damage to your organs.

Methane - the end result of having chili for lunch

It is not fart powered, and you can't run it on Stoli, okay?

Re:Chemistry Lesson (1)

FarHat (96381) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570815)

Methane - the end result of having chili for lunch


Having chili for lunch will give you hydrogen sulphide (H2S), not methane.

Did some due diligence on this.... (5, Informative)

nellardo (68657) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570666)

I did some due diligence on this kind of technology for a VC firm out of the Bahamas. They were considering investing in a spin-out from the Jet Propulsion Lab. [nasa.gov] If you check you'll see a dorky researcher holding a prototype [nasa.gov] and if you go here [nasa.gov] you'll see a newer stack. You can also read a bit about it. [nasa.gov]

The one I saw, intended for eventual use in cell phones, was basically what looked like a sandwich of plexiglass and some spongy material. Two wires ran off from the sponge to connect to the contacts for a small fan. You'd take a bottle of methanol, squirt it on the sponge, and the fan would start to spin, slowly at first, and building up in speed as the cell heated up to optimum temperature (which I think was around 50-60 degrees celsius).

Cell phones make a good first application for this kind of technology (as opposed to cars) because the price/performance ratio is high (cell phones are expensive for the amount of power they use) and the performance/weight is relatively low (you don't need a really big stack to drive cell phone). If the fuel-cell cell phone (or even just a widget to replace the battery) costs ten times as much, but lasts ten times as long, is fully "rechargeable" with a one-minute application of methanol (which could come in sealed, disposable plastic tubes, or you could fill it the same way you fill a butane lighter), and has no "memory" problems, then you've got a real winner. People will pay $1000 for a cell phone (they did when the StarTAC first came out).

A car that costs ten times as much doesn't work, because that puts even a cheapie car into six figures. You have to get the price-performance ratio of fuel cells way way down before they become useful for cars. However, for cars, methanol distribution may not be a big problem - some researchers are working on gasoline-driven fuel cells. Not as clean as methanol (which exhausts CO_2 and H_2O), but cleaner than combustion, and the distribution infrastructure is already in place. There's still a price/performance problem, because gasoline-powered fuel cells effectively have a full chemistry lab built in, with three or four stages to go through before the actual power production. They also operate at much higher temperatures.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cells are nifty because they're solid-state. A catalyst (platinum, I think) drives the methanol/oxygen -> power/water/carbon dioxide reaction. They do have problems with supporting rapid changes in electrical draw, however. Typically this is handled by putting them in series with a capacitor. The capacitor can soak up rapid increases in demand, while the cell itself adjusts.

Mechanical Technology have a Micro Fuel Cell (1)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570668)

I found this company already have from their research aswell using their direct Methanol approach.

http://www.mechtech.com/

Unfortunately to see the picture of the prototype, you have to go through Dr Ackers Powerpoint slides.

Here are the slides
http://www.mechtech.com/investors/power2001_file s/ frame.htm

OT: Slashdot icon in IE 5? (-1)

Frank White (515786) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570691)

Sorry to post this OT, but does anyone else see a fancy Slashdot icon in the location bar in Internet Explorer 5.5? Every other web page has the usual "white page with blue 'e'" logo next to the URL, but Slashdot has a green slash and dot. How does this work and why does no other site have it?

Re:OT: Slashdot icon in IE 5? (-1)

Shitsack Comments (256887) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570747)

Make a favicon.ico, upload it to your web site, and any moron who adds your site to their favorites in IE will see that icon instead of the stupid stylized "e" thing.

wow! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570697)

Just imagine a Beowulf cluster of these things, all farting!

Re:wow! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2570743)

Screw Beowulf clusters. This wasn't funny the first time it was posted, so what in Black Jesus' name made you think it would be funny to post it for the fifty-thousandth time? The addition of farts?

Would this produce methane gasses? (1)

Sonicboom (141577) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570732)

I'm not a chemical engineer (IANACE) - but I wonder if a by product of one of these batteries would be methane gas, which is quite flamable (and smelly).

And if one of these leaked, would it smell like someone was flatulent after a nite of drinking cheap american beer and eating lots of taco bell?

Re:Would this produce methane gasses? (2)

Alioth (221270) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570767)

Methane, whilst indeed flammable, is odourless. The stink from farts is caused by things other than the methane gas.

Methanol combustion (1)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570839)

In a clean combustion the process looks like this

2*CH3OH + 3*O2 => 2*CO2 + 4*H2O

No methane (CH4) would result from this. And unless I'm mistaken, methane is oderless. What you "smell" in methane is usually a sulfurous compound bound to a CH3- molecule.

Granted, I haven't studied chemestry in more than three years, but regarding the methane not smelling, my dictionary agrees with me:

"An odorless, colorless, flammable gas, CH4, the major constituent of natural gas, that is used as a fuel and is an important source of hydrogen and a wide variety of organic compounds."

you think we have battery fires now? hehe (1)

josquint (193951) | more than 12 years ago | (#2570831)

I read this after hearing on the radio a massive LiIon Battery Fire Recal announcement.
Which makes me think... i'm guessing the amount of methanol is fairly small, but geez.. that stuff's GOTTA burn nice :) WAAY faster than LiIon batteries and plastic.

hehe.. combination fuel cell and camp stove! YES! haha
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