IEC Pens Safety Specification for Portable Fuel Cells

March 02, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published a safety specification for small fuel cells capable of powering personal electronic devices, marking another significant milestone on the road to commercialization. The IEC specification helps open the door to fuel cell use on passenger aircraft.

The specification, IEC/PAS 62282-6-1 (2006-02) Fuel cell technologies - Part 6-1: Micro fuel cell power systems – Safety, covers fuel cells in devices such as cell phones, music players, gaming consoles, flashlights, and laptop computers. It includes rigorous testing and design requirements to ensure safety during use and transportation. Numerous fuels are covered, including methanol, formic acid, borohydride, butane, and hydrogen.

"The specification embodies our industry's commitment to the airline industry and to future customers that our products will meet stringent safety and design standards," said USFCC Technical Director Robert Wichert, who was Working Group Secretary. "I want to thank Harry Jones of Underwriters Laboratories for his strong leadership as Chairman, as well as all the dedicated professionals who worked so hard to reach consensus. It is a credit to the industry that such a safety specification can be developed in a short period of time to support industry needs".

Compliance with the specification is voluntary, but compliance is required of devices that would be transported on passenger aircraft under the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Technical Instructions permitting carry-on devices powered by fuel cells starting in 2007.

IEC began work on the specification two years ago, and last November agreed to publish it early in 2006 to support the adoption of the ICAO Instruction. The US Fuel Cell Council acted as Secretariat for the IEC Technical Working Group that drafted the specification. The process involved USFCC members and others from North America, Europe, and Asia.