A Japanese company today unveiled a breakthrough fuel cell for mobile computers based on so-called 'solid methanol' technology.
Kurita Water Industries claims that the technology solves the safety issues that have previously prevented widespread adoption of this volatile material as a power source.
Methanol fuel cells promise to give notebook PCs and mobile phones battery life measured in days or even weeks.
Companies including Toshiba, IBM and Sanyo are already experimenting with them in laptops and other products, but the material is highly toxic, flammable and can even cause explosions in confined spaces.
However, by combining the methanol with another, as yet undisclosed, compound Kurita claims to have created a safe methanol fuel cell. The methanol compound can be stored as powder or can be fashioned into a variety of shapes.
Getting the methanol out of the solid form is simple, according to the manufacturer, and can be achieved by simply adding water.
Kurita's mystery compound captures the methanol within a molecular lattice, and releases it on contact with water. Because the holding compound is unchanged by this process, according to the company, it can be recharged with methanol and reused.
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