Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Methanol fuel cells the latest in portable power

Methanol fuel cells the latest in portable power
by Mark Rutherford
February 22, 2009 6:00 AM PST
A German company has introduced a "wearable" fuel cell that usesdirect methanol fuel cell technology, doing away with the weightymechanical components usually associated with generation of electricalpower.

Based on an award-winning unipolar stack technology design, the Jenny600S delivers 25 watts of power for up to 20 hours at a time,according to the company Smart Fuel Cell (SFC).
SFC fuel cells took top honors in the U.S. Department of Defense'sWearable Power Competition last October against stiff competition froma host of big-name competitors. But it's not the only game: companieslike UtraCell and Jadoo Power also offer a range of portable fuel celloptions to military customers.
The Jenny uses replaceable liquid methanol fuel cartridges and can beworn by soldiers in a vest, where it instantly kicks in from standbymode to automatically recharge batteries when needed. It workssilently in both vertical and horizontal positions, according to SFC.It can also be left in a hands-off mode to automatically power upequipment in the field. The company estimates that the unit couldreduce the weight of the batteries that soldiers must carry on certainmissions by up to 70 percent.
And the SFC system uses nonpressurized methanol, which has been giventhe seal of approval in tests by Army Research Lab and Natick SoldierCenter, according to SFC. Low pressure gives it a leg up, in terms ofsafety over pressurized gases like hydrogen, propane, or butane.
It's not available to civilians yet, but look for systems like this toshake out in the near future. Mark Rutherford is a West Coast-based freelance writer. He is amember of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Emailhim at

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