Saturday, September 24, 2005

Fuel Cells on the Horizon?

For the more technically advanced members of the audience comes this article in Fuel Cell Works about the potential for direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) in mobile devices versus other technologies. Most of the article is way over my head but the end goal is to find "a cheap and easy means to power mobile phones, with recharging taking only a few seconds."

The articles notes two of the obstacles facing the industry: size and commercialization. Regarding the former, Stuart Robinson at Strategy Analytics said, "Fuel-cell technology still needs to be shrunk to fit in a phone. This is still five or more years away from mainstream development, but we will see some small test products on the market before then."

Viswanathan Krishnan at Frost & Sullivan commented that "We have to bear in mind that the anticipated weight reduction and the flexible geometry of fuel cells will be able to drive miniaturization of the fuel-cell technology."

On the latter, Robinson added, "At the moment, there are insufficient data points to plot a curve. By next year there will be enough points on the curve to extrapolate." He warned that "confusion over new regulations concerning the transportation of methanol and hydrogen fuel cartridges could cast doubts on the commercialization of fuel cells."

Krishnan predicted everything will be sorted out once the technology issues are addressed. "For example, the cost of the whole system should come down the moment the volumes increase while the methanol infrastructure is going to grow as there are more end-users."