MTI demonstrates integrated PDA and Smartphone fuel cells
By Mike Hanlon
September 20, 2004
A new cord-free rechargeable methanol fuel cell for handheld devices has been demonstrated which is expected become available later this year heralding the arrival of the first viable alternative to batteries for powering handheld devices.inevitable move from battery to fuel cell technology. The company expects that the fuel cell will offer ten times the power from an equivalent sized battery and make a significant impact on the military and commercial portable electronics markets.
MTI Micro believes its new Mobion technology is the first micro fuel cell technology a viable performance/cost package compared to batteries.
The tiny patented Mobion power pack will provide continuous access to power anytime, anywhere for handheld devicesand is expected to ultimately offer ten times the power of an equivalent size battery pack, while allowing for instant, cord-free re-charging.
Mobion will be available to the industrial market later this year and the company expects to begin making an impact on the multi-billion dollar power pack market for portable consumer electronics during 2005.
Two concept models were demonstrated with integrated Mobion technology - a handheld entertainment system and a PDA/smart phone.
The integrated Mobion power pack is less than 40cc in size, achieving a technology milestone for the company while demonstrating the miniaturisation progress necessary for integration into portable electronic devices.
Mobion has an impressive list of supply chain partners. Dupont will be its membrane/electrode assembly partner, Flextronics will be the manufacturing partner and Gillette/Duracell are intended to provide consumer fuel refill distribution.
"Recent advances in fuel cell materials science have spurred hydrogen fuel cell development for automotive applications to address long term energy needs, whereas exciting breakthroughs have spurred portable fuel cell development using methanol fuel for much nearer term needs," said Sara Bradford, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. "MTI Micro has combined its significant DMFC technology advances with the commercial heritage of its 42 year-old parent company MTI to launch Mobion - the first micro fuel cell technology designed for the performance, manufacturability and cost profile necessary to make a significant impact on the military and commercial portable electronics markets."
Mobion is the culmination of work protected by a combination of more than 50 patents (either granted or applied for) representing a number of breakthrough discoveries. MTI Micro believes Mobion proprietary DMFC power pack technology has significant benefits over status quo battery packs and competing micro fuel cell designs.
At the core of Mobion technology is its unique approach to managing the water produced at the fuel cell cathode, and required for the chemical reaction at the fuel cell anode. Traditional DMFCs rely on complex water management "micro-plumbing" around the cell, whereby water that is produced at the cathode is collected, re-routed and mixed with incoming methanol at the anode. The Mobion technology architecture uses a proprietary approach which manages the water flow internal to the fuel cell with no pumping required.
By eliminating the need for cumbersome water management "micro-plumbing", the resultant power pack will have longer run times between charges, less system complexity, be small and light enough for handheld devices and most importantly, it will be affordable.
MTI Micro will ultimately address three primary markets, industrial, military and consumer electronics, through a phased entry approach. The Company plans its first shipment of Mobion power packs to the industrial market for use in retail, distribution and warehousing applications (such as RFID tag readers) where the shorter run-time and re-charge maintenance of traditional batteries reduce worker productivity.
MTI Micro has also begun pursuit of the military market. The Company has begun testing with government organizations and defense equipment suppliers and believes it will capitalize on those relationships by supplying rugged, high-capacity fuel cells for future military applications.
MTI Micro then plans to pursue the broader consumer market with partners such as Gillette/Duracell. Target applications will include hand-held communication devices, PDAs and other power-hungry portable electronic devices that can benefit from Mobion extended run-time, cord-free rechargeable power packs with continuous access to power anytime, anywhere.