Singaporean company Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies will release a small home hydrogen refueling and storage solution at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later this week that could kickstart mankind’s transition to a hydrogen-based economy. The HYDROFILL is a small desktop device that plugs into the power supply, a solar panel or a small wind turbine, and automatically extracts hydrogen from its water tank and stores it in a solid form in small refillable cartridges. The cartridges contain metallic alloys that absorb hydrogen into their crystalline structure, a storage method which the company claims offers the highest volumetric energy density of any form of hydrogen storage, even higher than liquid hydrogen.

Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, which first became known to the general public with an exclusive Gizmag story in 2006 about the company’s educational toy solar hydrogen car. The Horizon toy cars quickly became the world’s largest volume-produced commercial fuel cell products and it is quite an irony that less than half a decade later, the company which launched with a toy car appears set to introduce genuinely disruptive technology into the home, finally enabling the long-touted futuristic vision of a hydrogen station in every home.

The HYDROFILL hydrogen refueling device will enable a low cost, scalable hydrogen supply model and may indeed eliminate the need for large-scale fueling infrastructure investments. As Horizon’s press statement so aptly puts it, the “game-changer innovation can unlock the age-old dilemma over which comes first: clean cars, or clean fuels.”

“We no longer need to rely on nationwide networks of hydrogen fueling stations to enable large-scale fuel cell commercialization,” said Horizon co-founder Taras Wankewycz. “Horizon is initiating a transition that places consumers in the driving seat. Thanks to our innovation each household can gradually become a major part of tomorrow’s hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure.”

The HYDROFILL is a small desktop device that plugs into the power supply, a solar panel or a small wind turbine, and automatically extracts hydrogen from its water tank and stores it in a solid form in small refillable cartridges. The cartridges contain metallic alloys that absorb hydrogen into their crystalline structure. The cartridges then release the hydrogen at low pressures, removing many of the concerns regarding storing hydrogen at high pressure.

This storage method also creates the highest volumetric energy density of any form of hydrogen storage, even higher than liquid hydrogen. Unlike conventional batteries, these cartridges carry more energy capacity, are cheaper, and do not contain any environmentally-harmful heavy metals.

Horizon believes the HYDROFILL is the first step towards private refueling of new generations of fuel cell electric vehicles. Fuel cell technology can greatly improve the features and usability of many battery or engine-powered devices, and create the possibility for lower cost electric cars that drive longer distances and recharge instantly.

Instead of starting with more complex automotive developments, Horizon’s founders decided to start enabling devices that require less power, such as various portable and consumer applications.

Horizon’s next phase starts now with the market introduction of a complete line of portable consumer electronic devices that address much larger markets. The first of these products include a micro-fuel cell power supply named MINIPAK, which extends the off-grid runtimes of small electronic devices including cell phones, lighting products, and many USB powered devices.

Horizon will also present an upgraded version of its larger HYDROPAK portable off-grid DC power supply system called. While these and other products will start entering the market in 2010, Horizon is already developing larger-size refueling systems that will enable anything from garden equipment to transportation.