Further Apple Patents Show How Fuel Cells Could Integrate into Future MacBooks, Charge iDevices

23 Dec 2011


A duo of patents uncovered in October signalled that Apple was actively interested in the use of fuel cells for powering some of its consumer devices. Apple is notorious in its obsession with thinness and lightness and October’s patents showed how the company could develop lightweight monopolar fuel cells. Now two further patent applications show how the company could integrate a fuel cell and fuel cartridge system into a MacBook.


Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device

Patent 1

This patent application (US 2011/0311895 – filed on 3rd August 2010) portrays an internal power module containing a battery coupled to a fuel cell stack fuelled by removable cartridges. The battery can receive power or give power to the fuel cell and may also be charged by the company’s standard MagSafe charger. The application shows in great detail how components of the power module interact including air input, stack purging, to the smallest detail of the battery indicator lights (BIL).


Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device

Patent 2

The second of the applications (US 2011/0313589 – filed on 28th April 2011) portrays an external fuel cell charging system featuring fuel cartridges and a small battery connected to a portable computing device, such as an iPad, by a bidirectional communication and power interface, similar to if not identical to the 30-pin dock connector found on all iPads, iPhones and most iPods today.


In both the described solutions, the Apple device would not be reliant entirely on the fuel cell system – this would remove any customer anxiety of not being able to access, or running out of, fuel. The external charging solution, in particular has good market potential; battery life is a concern for users and an official portable recharging solution would no doubt prove popular. Provision of fuel cartridges would also likely not be an issue – Apple already has retail locations in most major cities and ships within a few days to anywhere in the world from its online stores; cartridges could simply be distributed through these existing channels.

The patent applications also carry a surprisingly strong socio-political message that shows sincerity in Apple’s interest in powering their devices more sustainably.

‘Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling. These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources.’

‘As a consequence of this increased consumer awareness, electronics manufacturers have become very interested in developing renewable energy sources for their products, and they have been exploring a number of promising renewable energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells.’

Top image source: Gawker Media


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