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Miniaturized, molded fuel cells take on lithium-ion batteries

July 27, 2006

1 Min Read
Miniaturized, molded fuel cells take on lithium-ion batteries

Seed Corp. (Tsu, Japan), a leading manufacturer of toner cartridges for laser printers, has signed an agreement with Viaspace Inc. (Pasadena, CA) to begin the molding and assembly of disposable methanol fuel-cell cartridges for laptop computers, cell phones, and other portable electronic devices. Viaspace subsidiary, Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corp. (DMFCC), says leading electronics companies such as Toshiba, NEC, Hitachi, Sanyo, and Samsung plan to commercially launch portable electronics that use the fuel cells, instead of lithium-ion batteries, in 2007.

Viaspace says fuel cells offer longer operating time versus lithium-ion batteries and recharging is obviated since spent cells are simply replaced with new ones. Seed, which will create 200 million printer and copier toner cartridges in 2006, runs 125 injection molding machines and 60 ultrasonic welders.

In 2005, Viaspace reached an agreement with Elentec Co. Ltd. (Suwon, Korea) to create cartridges. Elentec, which has 21 injection molding machines, makes electronic and portable power products, including lithium-ion battery packs for cell phones, PDAs, camcorders, and laptop computers.

DMFCC says the direct methanol fuel cell was invented at the Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion lab and the University of Southern California, and is protected by 56 issued patents, with 62 still pending. DMFCC says the core of the fuel cell is the polymer electrode membrane (PEM), which conducts protons in an electromechanical reaction inside the fuel cell. Typically made from DuPont''s Nafion material, the PEM generates energy by converting methanol into electricity, versus combusting it, releasing protons, electrons, and carbon dioxide at the anode. The protons and electrons are then combined with oxygen at the cathode to produce water as the only byproduct.

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