11-01-19 The Potential for Fuel Cells in Tablet Computers

The Potential for Fuel Cells in Tablet Computers

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19 Jan 2011PDF (320 kb)

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With 2011 now well underway, things at FCT have remained busy these past two weeks with our plans for attending the main industry events and to update our surveys for the website both taking shape. The annual FCT Industry Review will also continue, with the launch planned for later in the year to coincide with our tenth anniversary.

I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Margery Ryan as Market Analyst, who will be joining FCT in February. Marge has a background in process engineering and, more recently, in publishing as editorial assistant for the e-journal Platinum Metals Review. Marge brings a wealth of experience to the team and will also be joining me in Japan for the FC Expo in March, where FCT will have a booth; please stop by and say hello!

In my last newsletter, I discussed the potential for fuel cells over the next ten years in stationary, transport and portable applications. The portable sector, specifically the consumer electronics space, was one area I identified where, in my opinion, a step change of technology was needed. Miniaturisation and integration will be pivotal in order to allow fuel cells to compete with existing battery technology and enable widespread adoption by the public.

On that subject, a couple of announcements caught my eye in the last two weeks which are worthy of note.

First was the demonstration of a fuel cell powered tablet computer at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011). Fluid Computer Systems (FCS) was walking the floor of the show displaying its Windows-7 based tablet computer powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, supplied by Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies. While FCS admits on its website that the unit is still 'a prototype and a bit heavy', it hints at the possibility of launching a fuel cell powered tablet to the consumer market from 2012.

The second thing of interest to me was the publication of a patent by Apple, concerning a new development in the manufacture and composition of bipolar plates. In 2010, Apple acquired the exclusive licensing rights for Liquidmetal technology, a non-crystalline alloy which is alleged to be stronger and more flexible than stainless steel. This recent patent applies Liquidmetal to the manufacture of bipolar plates enabling them to be made via injection moulding. Claiming advantages in terms of increased tensile strength, and enabling thinner components to be fabricated, the patent specifically mentions mobile devices as the potential application for fuel cells manufactured using this technology.

So are we witnessing the emergence of fuel cell powered tablets for the consumer market in the near future?

Tablets would certainly be an appropriate vehicle for the integration of fuel cells in portable electronic devices, as the need for miniaturisation is not as critical as in tiny modern mobile phones. The durability, grid independence and long run times also see fuel cells ticking all the right boxes for this type of mobile device. A large number of companies already compete in the tablet space, but iPad sales by Apple alone in the quarter up to Christmas exceeded 7 million, according to its most recent press statement. Even a small piece of that pie would be great for the industry, and potentially to accelerate the development and integration needed for wider adoption of fuel cells in consumer electronics.

That's it from me, but for those of you travelling to Washington DC for the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association conference next month I look forward to seeing you there.

Dan Carter     Manager

dancarter@fuelcelltoday.com

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Dr Dan Carter
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