Casio develops fuel cell for mobile devices

Casio Computer Co. Ltd. has developed a more efficient fuel-cell technology for mobile devices, the company said Tuesday.

Using Casio's newly developed fuel cell, a notebook PC will run for 20 hours, compared to five hours using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, said Akira Watanabe, a spokesman for Casio.

The company plans to include the fuel cell in its mobile products, including notebook PCs, digital still cameras, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and cell phones, by 2004, he said.

The fuel cell generates power by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. There are two methods of using hydrogen in a fuel cell. One is to use methanol, from which hydrogen will be extracted, and the other is to directly use the hydrogen itself as fuel. The former method generates more power but needs a large device, made up of 300 to 1000 parts, inside the cell to extract the hydrogen from the methanol, Watanabe said.

Casio's technology has shrunk the device to the size of a postage-stamp by combining these hundreds of parts into one chip, Watanabe said, allowing it to use the methanol-hydrogen method in small fuel cells.

The company holds about 120 patents on the fuel cell technology. Once the cells are in mass production, the price should be around the same as for a conventional lithium-ion battery, Watanabe said.

Other companies including Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Motorola Inc. are developing similar technologies. Toshiba aims to commercialize its fuel-cell technology for PDA products within two years, the company said.

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