Fuel Cell Hype Is Back

from the this-again? dept

For years, we've been hearing all about how wonderful fuel cells were going to be and how they would replace rechargeable batteries in things like mobile phones and laptops. This still doesn't make total sense. The benefit of fuel cells is that they'll last much longer than traditional rechargeable batteries. That's a good thing. However, the replaceable nature of fuel cells is a real downside. As we've pointed out before, the reason so many devices have moved to rechargeable batteries is because people don't like the idea of having to buy and tote around replacements for their devices. Being able to recharge is much more efficient. When it comes to fuel cells, though, the most likely situation will be that you'll have to buy replaceable fuel cell "cartridges" which most people will probably refer to as batteries -- since they'll basically look and act like batteries. Some companies have realized this and backed off the fuel cell bandwagon, but it looks like the hype is back again with Toshiba talking up a fuel cell-powered MP3 player and a research firm claiming the fuel cell market is about to take off. Yes, there's a place for fuel cells, but just because they last longer, it's not clear that everyone will rush out and buy them. Having rechargeables is just much easier to deal with than always having to make sure you have a fresh pack of new batteries fuel cells.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Mike R., Sep 16th, 2005 @ 6:08pm

    No Subject Given

    There's no need for them to really be throw-away; if they had hydrogen in them, the resulting water could be stored. Hook it up to AC power, and let a reversible fuel cell split the water back in to oxygen and hydrogen. Maybe every once in a while, top it off with water.

    Throw-away fuel cells is just a capitalist load of crap.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2005 @ 8:01pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    1) Fuel cell 'batteries' may be designed to be completely self-contained, if so then there's no need to add or remove any material. The major issue will be the hydrogen leaking out prior to use.
    2) AC wont split molecules.
    3) See #1, topping it off with water is redundant.

     

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  3.  
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    Rickler, Sep 16th, 2005 @ 8:12pm

    Just looking at the pic :rolleyes:

    If you look at the picture the person is refueling the "battery" with methanol. That means... "battery" doesn't get thrown away.

    The only downfall to this is it's explosive... but so are lithium batteries.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Mike R., Sep 16th, 2005 @ 9:22pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Electrical current through water will split water.. last time I checked, AC is that ;)

     

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  5.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 16th, 2005 @ 10:10pm

    Re: Just looking at the pic :rolleyes:

    If you look at the picture the person is refueling the "battery" with methanol. That means... "battery" doesn't get thrown away.

    That's unlikely to be the way the final product is "refueled" as the article suggests. It's a bit too dangerous for the average user.

    At the same time, that could be even worse, because you'd always have to carry around bottles of methanol...

     

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  6.  
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    bekeep, Sep 17th, 2005 @ 1:05am

    Re: No Subject Given

    sounds right...

     

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  7.  
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    KR, Sep 17th, 2005 @ 8:14am

    Re: No Subject Given

    DC works better. AC jsut makes a big explosive mess. Also, it can't be plain water because pure water does not conduct electricity; there must be a conductor such as salt or bleach present.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2005 @ 4:06pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    well i doubt people would have distilled water laying around that they would use... so i doubt the non conductive water would be an issue... but thats a good point... anyways what do they add to water to make it conductive for fuel cell purposes?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    David, Sep 17th, 2005 @ 4:54pm

    AC

    All cell phone batteries are charged with DC too. You must use a rectifier/power supply to charge any battery from the wall. Thus a similar charger would be used for the fuel cells if that were how they were intended to be used. The conversion of methanol to hydrogen for fuel cell use can (for now anyway) can be simplified into a much smaller cartridge than a two-way fuel-cell/electrolyzer system. As for refilling, they could operate much like butane cans are used to refill butane lighters, but under much higher pressure (safety would be a concern, and a good mechanism would need to be devised). Remember though that a single cartridge would run your phone for a month, so on trips you wouldn’t need to haul your can around, maybe just another spare cartridge for a very long trip.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 1:33am

    Re: No Subject Given

    "AC wont split molecules."

    Maybe you haven't heard of a transformer/rectifier.. AKA a power adapter. They are those niftly little devices (the thing you always lose in the bottom of your box of wires and cables) that pretty much every peice of electronics uses to convert AC into DC.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 1:35am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Uhh... you got it backwards, water is ther by product of fuel cells.

    To make water conductive, get it out of your faucet, its conductive, trust me.

     

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  12.  
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    Jimbo, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 1:52am

    For once I disagree with TechDirt's excellent arti

    Having followed the link in the above, I find the fuel cells to be amazing - 35 hours from 3.5ml of fuel? AND I would prefer to just fill 'er up rather than plug in and leave for 6 hours to charge...

     

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  13.  
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    Joseph Crawford, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 10:35am

    No Subject Given

    Sounds like if this goes through we can forget about taking our cell phones on a plane anywhere. Regardless of how stable the fuel cells are, if they are using methanol in them you can count on airports not allowing them through security.

     

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  14.  
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    Phaux, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 6:28pm

    Airports

    I agree. If its an explosive chemical, the airports won't allow it becuase they think your going to try and take down the plane, which I highly doubt you can do with an amount like 3.5ml.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 7:04pm

    Re: Airports

    Yup. http://www.corporatetravelsafety.com/Hazard%20materials.html

    Airplanes don't allow pocket cigarette lighters, so it's unlikely that they'll allow methanol refills. 3.5mL of methanol might not sound like much, but that small amount could be used to catch other materials on fire more easily -- which isn't good on aircraft.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Andrew Strasser, Sep 18th, 2005 @ 9:53pm

    Re: Airports

    Any battery could in theory be used as an explosive device as there is power generated on planes. Thus it is possible to explode any type of battery.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    malhombre, Sep 19th, 2005 @ 1:29am

    fuel cells? I'm still waiting for

    Mr. Fusion, or at least a good used flux capacitor with a couple of jigawatts left in it.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Niu, Jul 31st, 2007 @ 7:53pm

    eng lish

    cfjh grtjkvgbwukbheryfg erhfuyb hsebfuerj tftw ejbghytre ghutr hgrutg gSJYETrf vagiset rvahgdfywejfg y gfhrt hgchdtfh VFHs cjsdch sfhjedsrftgsyd fhgdytsdbwerh dusdbvuewftrsjec gfuwetfe jegfeurf jegfuyrfgje sdfhgs feufsd cg fggsfvajcwefdewhgfh admvFDgesytfg aMDSVFhaewg ghrjth bvwtro34 fedferu fgsfur fgertf AKYGD78346534 3475682R 234Y83745834U5Y83465 UT43756 3EUWT7RUE HR734645 GBFGUAWE5R634Q5

     

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