IBM and Sanyo have teamed up to develop a prototype micro-direct methanol fuel cell system which they promise will power laptops for up to eight hours.
The firms have already produced a fuel cell reference design based on Sanyo technology which will be adapted for future ThinkPad notebooks.
The hybrid fuel cell system includes an auxiliary bay with an IBM Ultrabay Slim Battery to supplement peak power consumption for business applications.
In addition, the fuel cell could be used to make the power supply even more versatile by charging an UltraBay Slim Battery, according to IBM.
Unlike other prototypes that require laptops to be modified to incorporate fuel cell batteries, Sanyo claimed that its system is designed to be compatible with most current ThinkPad models without the need for alterations.
Mitsuru Homma, group executive at Sanyo's Power Solutions Group, said: "This is quite a new concept that utilises both micro fuel cells and rechargeable batteries.
"This hybrid system could enable the user to efficiently operate IBM's ThinkPad notebooks for a longer time compared to systems with only a fuel cell, while also providing the convenience of an AC cordless environment."
According to Big Blue, the fuel cell system could enable ThinkPads to run intensive business applications such as multimedia, graphics and computation programs, while performing tasks such as security updates and scheduled maintenance without draining PC battery power.
Peter Hortensius, vice president at IBM's Personal Computing Division, said: "We do not focus simply on the 'wow factor' of fuel cells. We see it as a powerful enabler that could support a wide variety of business applications.
"These companies are collaborating to help carry ThinkPad notebooks to the next generation of power supplies, while supporting the highest levels of business productivity."
The IBM PC division's research and development of ThinkPad mobile computing technology takes place at the Yamato Laboratory in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan and at development facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
After the launch of the new Lenovo Group in the second quarter of 2005, these resources will be joined by Lenovo R&D facilities in Beijing and Shanghai.
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