Motorola & Los Alamos' Miniature Fuel Cell

January 20, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

Scientists at Motorola Labs (Schaumburg, IL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, NM) announced they have developed a new, miniature fuel cell. The energy density of these new fuel cells is claimed to be 10 times that of conventional rechargeable batteries.The fuel cells each measure about one inch square and less than one-tenth of an inch in thickness and are powered by liquid methanol (wood alcohol). The fuel cells are designed to use a reservoir of inexpensive methanol that, when combined with the oxygen in the air, produces electricity. Since fuel cells have low-voltage outputs, typical designs normally would require stacking several cells together to increase voltage. Motorola Labs claims it has designed unique circuitry that efficiently converts the low voltage of a fuel cell to the higher voltage required to replace conventional batteries and directly drive portable electronics."Manufacturers are constantly developing new features for portable electronic equipment that require more power and longer operating life," said Bill Ooms, director of Motorola's Material, Device, and Energy Research. "These fuel cells have an amazing ability to produce energy for longer periods of time while weighing far less than conventional batteries."