Laptop Fuel Cells -- Ready for Takeoff?

Fuel cells that can run laptops for 10 hours or more without plug power have captured the imagination of computer junkies. But first, backers must prove that they are as safe to fly with as a cigarette lighter or a duty-free bottle of vodka. Japanese companies are pushing ahead with prototypes of miniaturized fuel cell technology that use methanol to create power, even though experts say limited-life batteries are here to stay for several more years.

Methanol, a type of alcohol, is flammable, but fuel cells typically use less than 24 percent methanol in water, said John Goodman, president of the fuel cell division at Entegris, which makes fuel cell components. "The issue isn't 'Are flammable liquids safe on an aircraft?' They already are allowed with liquor and perfume," said Goodman. Fuel cell-powered laptop prototypes have been developed by Toshiba 6502.T and NEC 6701.T , who plan to start selling them as full-fledged products next year. Casio 6952.T , Sony 6758.T and Hitachi 6501.T and Samsung 00830.KS of Korea are also working on micro fuel cell technology.

News source: Reuters

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