SFC Begins Production of Mini Methanol Fuel Cell

February 14, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

Smart Fuel Cell GmbH (SFC, Munich, Germany) recently began production of a miniaturized methanol fuel cell, designed to replace batteries in camcorders, laptop computers, cell phones, power tools and other portable consumer devices. The company claims that a single fuel cell, holding about 125ml of methanol, can power a notebook computer for more than eight hours, and the battery can be refueled by replacing a refill tank cartridge while the device is running.

Manfred Stefener, the company's founder and managing director, reported that current battery technology is not keeping up with a rising demand for devices that do not have to be repeatedly recharged, and that battery storage is becoming more important than processor performance for many notebook computer buyers. "The market for portable devices is a fast and permanently growing sector, which is geared to the growing mobility of people," Stefener said, "but portable products are only as good as their power supplies."

The company's latest prototype is 50 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than the first version introduced six months ago and generates up to 40W of power, making it suitable for laptops, portable printers, fax machines and cell phones. The device can be used at ambient temperatures from below freezing up to 40 degrees C, and is well-suited to work as an energy source in unprotected environments.

The company expects the fuel cells to cost between $3 and $5 per piece.