JPL Develops New Portable Fuel Cell Technology

April 28, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA) has designed a portable, compact, flat fuel cell technology suitable for operating small, portable electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, hand-held organizers and camcorders, for days at a time without recharging or using expensive, heavy batteries.

JPL researchers eliminated bipolar plates and created a monopolar pack, which is flat with the cells linked by electrical interconnects. To demonstrate the new fuel cell technology, JPL developed a 5W portable power unit using the new lightweight, monopolar, flat pack technology. JPL engineers rigged a cell phone to the power unit and placed several phone calls as a demonstration. The 5W portable power unit could simultaneously power five cell phones, and the system can be refueled instantly to extend talk-time.

"This is a significant advance in fuel cell development because by going small, you make the fuel cell portable and viable for use as a power source to operate small appliances that require a long operating time, such as a laptop," stated S.R. Narayanan, the fuel cell technical team leader at JPL.