NEC Develops Fuel Cell Using Nanotechnology

September 03, 2001 by Jeff Shepard

NEC Corp. (Japan), the Japan Science and Technology Corp. (JST, Japan), and the Institute of Research and Innovation (IRI) announced that they have developed a small-sized fuel cell for mobile terminals using nanotechnology.

The fuel cells are solid polymer fuel cells with methanol used as the fuel. The cell generates electric energy by producing a chemical reaction between oxygen and the hydrogen contained in methanol. When the battery dies, it is necessary to inject methanol into the battery again. They can generate electrical energy of about 10 times that of a lithium-ion battery with the same cubic volume.

Yoshimi Kubo, senior manager of Nanotechnology Research Group at NEC's Fundamental Research Laboratories, stated, "By using this technology, NEC will start manufacturing a new cell by 2003-2005 that enables a notebook PC to operate for several days continuously, and a cell that enables a mobile phone to operate for a month without power down."

NEC has adopted for the electrode of the fuel cell a nanotechnology-based raw material named "carbon nanohorn," one kind of carbon nanotube. NEC says that cells with the carbon nanohorn electrode generate about 20 percent more electric power than conventional fuel cells with activated-carbon electrodes. The carbon nanohorn has a finer structure than activated carbon, and can disperse on the electrode the fine particles of platinum that are the catalyst for decomposing hydrogen. This enhances the efficiency of the decomposition of hydrogen, the company said.