Toshiba's fuel-cell charger is coming this quarter

Toshiba is set to deliver on its promise to commercialize direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology during the current quarter.

Toshiba is set to deliver on its promise to commercialize direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology during the current quarter.

Outlining business development plans in Tokyo on Thursday the company confirmed that it would launch a DMFC-based battery charger before the end of March. It is also aiming to commercialize DMFC packs for cell phones and personal computers sometime in the year from April.

DMFCs produce electricity from a reaction between methanol, water and air. The only by-products are a small amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide, so DMFCs are often seen as a greener source of energy than traditional batteries. Another advantage is that they can be replenished with a new cartridge of methanol in seconds.

Toshiba and other Japanese competitors have been working on fuel cells for several years. Like the other companies, Toshiba has constantly issued and then missed commercialization schedules, but this time it looks like things are for real.

At the Ceatec show in Japan in September it showed a prototype fuel-cell charged cell phone and said at the time it would commercialize a DMFC product before the end of the financial year. However since then it's been quiet on the issue and the only talk about fuel cells at the recent International Consumer Electronic Show in the U.S. was of future prototypes.

However, with Thursday's confirmation it appears a fuel cell charger is coming within the next two months. Toshiba wouldn't reveal more details of the product and whether it would be a dedicated model for a certain product, like a cell phone, or if it would be a general battery charger.

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Martyn Williams

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