Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Methanol Fuel-Cell Battery For Your Laptop? 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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Methanol Fuel-Cell Battery For Your Laptop?

Comments Filter:
  • Sweeet (Score:2, Funny)

    by GuntherAEPi ( 254349 )
    Does this mean gas pumps at CompUSA?
  • 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.

    • 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.
  • It would be interesting to fill my car AND Laptop up at the same time. Then my watch, oh and don't forget my TV too!
  • Ooh, does that mean we can drink our batteries when we run out of beer?

    Neat! :)

    • Moron (Score:4, Funny)

      by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch&inorbit,com> on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:46PM (#2570493) Homepage Journal
      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....
      • 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 [] with each battery. No big deal.

        Sheesh, you environmental guys.
        • 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"
          • There's an episode where the Simpsons are watching TV, and an ad (for a monster truck rally if my memory serves) comes on blaring that tickets are the cure for a boring evening or whatever, and then it says "tickets are not to be taken internally" in the typical end of commercial disclaimer voice.

            After this Homer says, "See! Because of me, they have a warning."

    • You would have to be blind to try that

      Repeat after me

      Methanol != ethanol
      Methanol != ethanol

    • On the contrary, it means you can pour your beer into the laptop when you run out of fuel.

  • by diadem ( 464192 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:44PM (#2570470) Homepage
    A similar article was posted here before, dealing with Methane batteries for cell phones.
  • by mrpotato ( 97715 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:44PM (#2570478)
    don't drink the batteries: methanol will get you blind, ethanol will get you drunk.
  • completive? or competitive?

    how about slashdot hires the grammar nazi?
  • by egomaniac ( 105476 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:45PM (#2570482) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.
    • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:51PM (#2570536) Homepage Journal
      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.


      • 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.
    • by jht ( 5006 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:56PM (#2570558) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • 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.

      • 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.
        • Are you allowed to "burn" that methanol, or activate any heat-generating, chemical reacting devices?

          From my experience, airlines are quick to panic about things that "sound" dangerous (and lately it's probably good to err on the side of conservatism). I guess however, that the market for these would be large enough that the manufacturers can lobby the airlines to prove their safety.

    • 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!"
    • Well, I'd rather carry a container of methanol than an AC adapter and a really loooooong cord.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      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

      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.
      • 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...
      • Where do you pay $0.02 per KWHr? I want to move there! (I currently pay $0.22/KWHr in eastern Mass, USA)
      • Huh? No I wasn't.

        I was concerned about convenience, not cost.
    • I like the potential of long-term battery life, say for remote scientific expeditions and the like.

      Another thought is that fuel cells can be made to work in reverse. Heisenberg's theroem comes to mind; it goes basically that any electronic device can be reversed, such that it's inputs become it's outputs and visa-versa. An example is microphones and speakers. The two are interchangeable, except speakers have been optimized in physical design to emit sound and microphones to collect sound. Heisenberg's thereom has been disproved... it doesn't apply to semiconductor technology.

      But, it does work for fuel cells... see this [] page for an example of someone doing it. So, you don't need to buy methanol. You can generate it electrically. In this sense, it would be similar to a sealed lead-acid battery. The material it works on is liquid and degrades through use, but as long as the system is sealed (and thus no transfer of fluids with the outside world goes on), it's rechargeable.
    • I know I'd rather carry around an AC adapter than a container of methanol.

      Nevermind trying to get something like that through the airport these days...
    • People with a lot less technical knowledge already "refill" things.

      Gas-Station monkeys refill propane tanks. People refill Zippo lighters. In fact, there are even Curling Irons that take butane paks for generating heat. If rednecks and women (excuse the generalization) can refil their tools, why can't geeks?
    • It won't take too many methanol spills on the carpeting for somebody to bail on the whole idea.
      It won't leave any red wine stains and shouldn't dissolve the carpet dye - it will just smell bad for a while until it all evaporates. You can use the stuff for cleaning, but ethanol is a lot better for that purpose. Ethanol also works well in a fuel cell, but is heavily regulated and taxed in a lot of places. Spilling the methanol on your skin is a bad idea (it diffuses in like ethanol, and like ethanol it athough probably not far, but it is a lot more toxic), getting it in your eyes would not be good at all. The stuff that gets you drunk is ethanol, the "Methylated Spirits" that is in a few countries was once almost entirely ethanol with a small amount of methanol added to allow more water to be boiled off. In most places the methanol is no longer in "methylated spirits" because it killed too many people that drank it.

      Here is a Material Safety Data Sheet [] for methanol, which list what you should do when you handle the stuff.

  • Methanol fuel cell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SolidCore ( 250574 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:45PM (#2570487) Homepage
    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... (Score:2, Informative)

    by turbine216 ( 458014 )
    ...a previous slashdot story [] involving Motorola's attempt at powering cell phones with similar methane-powered fuel cells.
  • i would rather have amee and her battery from red planet..
  • by Typingsux ( 65623 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:48PM (#2570503)
    That way, instead of having to keep a dog and blame it for my farting, I can say it was the laptop again.

  • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @04:09PM (#2570629) Homepage
      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.
  • by Manuka ( 4415 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:50PM (#2570516)
    Someone needs to come up with an ethanol fuel cell, and when you run out, just fill it back up with cheap vodka.
    • According to an urban legend, the Soviet army used vodka to power their tanks when they ran out of diesel in WWII. Unfortunately, this didn't work very well because the soldiers drank the fuel.

      I imagine using vodka in fuel cells would have a similar result in a corporate environment. I can already picture a stressed out developer taking a shot or two out of their laptop's fuel cell, or an executive chugging a few before a tough meeting.

      Actually, that doesn't sound bad at all ;)
      • Ethanol was used as a torpedo fuel during World War II. This lead to the predictable result, large numbers of supply requisitions for torpedo fuel. The fuel kept leaking out of those damn torpedoes :-).
    • Actually, it's possible to design fuel cells to use ANY heavy-hydrogen long-chain molecule. Some fuel cells only consume hydrogen; but with a platinum coating on the proton exchange barrier, a fuel cell can potentially use any hydrocarbon. Ethanol is TARGETED by some of them, because it's cheap to make from corn byproducts (husks and whatnot)

      This means that you can also use propane and gasoline, BTW, as long as they're clean enough. Surprisingly, methanol (aka windsheild wiper fluid) produces more energy than gasoline when used in a fuel cell...
  • by Exmet Paff Daxx ( 535601 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:50PM (#2570518) Homepage Journal
    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 [] but there's nearly no mention of an application to new forms of fuel cells in the literature []. This press release is great but... where's the science?

    Just curious.
    • 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]
      • Evionyx [] has a fuel cell that you CAN recharge. It is a Zinc metal-air fuel cell. The cool thing about this company is they are building a general power solution, not just for portables. They look like they are going into production sometime soon (just added a bunch of facility space), they are building electric scooters for Taiwan and AAA rechargeables currently. They are claiming >500 WH/Kg, about 1/3 of this methanol fuel cell, but still much greater than the Li-Ion batteries.

        Incidentally they claim to currently hold the Guinness World Record for longest distance traveled in an electric vehicle on a single charge, 214.7 miles. They say they should be able to get more than 600 miles. They used a modified Insight (converted to all electric).

        Fuel Cells look like a promising technology, the US should dump a bunch of money into this, get us out of the current junkie/pusher relationship we have with the Middle East.
        • Fuel Cells look like a promising technology, the US should dump a bunch of money into this, get us out of the current junkie/pusher relationship we have with the Middle East.

          Actually, we don't need the Middle East at all. There are the Alberta Oil Sands [] which are insanely huge, and which just had an advance in extraction technology to become a lot more competitive.

          But we add in things like Fuel cells, etc. And then we can let them all go fight each other with rocks and sticks and stuff.

      • Actually, check out this link []

        Rechargeable (via DC current) fuel cell. Cool. Probably horribly inefficient, but you trade that for huge battery life.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:51PM (#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.

    • 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.
    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

      • Actually, the phenomenon you're describing is related not to the battery's charge containing capacity so much as its charge delivery capacity. This same thing happens to car batteries left on cold concrete floors. The charge doesn't disappear from the battery (well, a tiny bit does), but as the battery cools its ability to deliver the charge decreases. You'll find that if you chill a fully-charged battery, it'll stop working. But rather then recharging it, if you heat it back up it'll go back to working normally.

        Of course, fuel cells do work at virtually any temperature that won't damage the device it's powering, so, as you stated, this wouldn't be an issue.

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

    What fun.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2001 @03:55PM (#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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bofh31337 ( 521771 )
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I thought innovative ideas were outlawed by the DMCA.
  • This can't be good for the ozone layer.
  • Uh Oh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by BoarderPhreak ( 234086 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @04:08PM (#2570623)
    With a fuel cell, I guess Apple's problem of self-igniting PowerBooks should be REAL interesting soon...
  • This idea really stinks!
  • Check the November issue of Technology Review. It has an accessible article about this very subject: p

    It's quite interesting.
  • From a couple 'o months ago: 20 2&mode=thread
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @04:16PM (#2570665) Homepage
    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?
  • by nellardo ( 68657 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @04:16PM (#2570666) Homepage Journal
    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. [] If you check you'll see a dorky researcher holding a prototype [] and if you go here [] you'll see a newer stack. You can also read a bit about it. []

    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.

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

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

    Here are the slides s/ frame.htm
  • That thinks people will pay a penny/page to surf the web!
  • 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?
    • Methane, whilst indeed flammable, is odourless. The stink from farts is caused by things other than the methane gas.
    • 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."
    • The waste from a hydrogen fuel cell is water. There are certain problems disposing of the water in a way that will not make the surroundings wet, which is a particular problem for electronic circuits. Current hopes are that the water can be harmlessly evaporated, but at worst, you might need to empty the unit's water waste into a sink or toilet from time to time.

  • 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
  • I guess "Blue Screen of Death" could be replaced with "Fiery Hand-Removing Explosion of Death" in this case...
  • The real question is would Laptop/Cellphone "battery life" actually go up or would manufacturers just add "instant, always on, hot dog cooking functions."
  • Supposedly the byproduct of the reaction is water, which sounds good in principle. But where the does water go? Do you need to have a reservior for the water, or am I going to stand up with a wet lap after a long plane trip?

  • by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <nate&baxleys,org> on Thursday November 15, 2001 @05:35PM (#2571061) Homepage Journal
    Isn't it interesting how the Japanese have an apprantly high tolerance for companies expanding into quite a few horizontal areas. Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of cool things that come from Japanese companies that are better known for more common things like cars (Honda's robot [], Mitsubishi creating OS's [] for example) or the Matsushita/Panasonic []company which makes all kinds off stuff. Now we have computer company, mostly, making FuelCell batteries.

    Why don't we see these types of things from American companies? Is it a lack of R&D? Legal restrictions on how far they can spread horizontally? Or just a lack of interest? Where are the cool ideas from American companies? And don't give me iPod.
  • 2&mode=thread

    Been there done that.
  • Cost? Producible? (Score:3, Informative)

    by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Thursday November 15, 2001 @06:45PM (#2571521)
    AFAIK, no good way of producing the carbon nanotubes (buckytubes) for these cells has yet been discovered. They zap a lot of carbon to convert just a few percent to nanotubes, then try to sort the few right-sized tubes out of the mess. So if it can be produced at all, it's going to be very expensive.
  • There have been several small fuel cells announced in the last year, but so far, nobody seems close to shipping.

    Closer to reality is the Ballard Power Systems NEXA power unit [], which is a 1200 watt fuel cell intended for integration into OEM devices. 27 pounds, so it's not too portable. Runs on gaseous hydrogen. There will probably be a UPS-like emergency power product based on this.

Information is the inverse of entropy.