Renew Power Develops Formic Acid Fuel Cell

July 11, 2004 by Jeff Shepard

Renew Power Inc. (Champaign, IL), a subsidiary of Tekion SolutionsInc. (Burnaby, Vancouver, BC), has been working toward developing a fuel cell tiny enough to power a cellphone, and recently demonstrated a fuel-cell-powered phone at the Power Sources Conference in Philadelphia.

The fuel cell operates on formic acid, instead of the more commonly used methanol. Formic acid is a relatively weak organic acid found naturally in ants and some plants. The formic acid fuel cell has a relatively simple design with no moving parts. The fuel cell produces at least 3 W of power in a volume smaller than 30 cm³.

President and Chief Executive Officer Neil Huff and Vice President of Marketing and Business Development David McLeod, both former Ballard Power Systems executives, started Renew Power a year ago after licensing fuel cell technology developed by Richard Masel, a UI professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. The business leased space in the EnterpriseWorks building in the UI Research Park and now has seven people working in its labs. Just recently, Huff and McLeod recruited Chief Operating Officer Tom O'Hara, who has 20 years of experience in the technology labs of Eveready Battery, now known as Energizer.

Pilot manufacturing of the fuel cells is slated for the first three months of 2006, with the intent of producing hundreds of thousands of units.