NEC delays notebook fuel cell launch

NEC has succeeded in reducing the size of a prototype direct methanol fuel cell for use with notebook PCs but says it is unlikely to see commercialization until at least two years later than previously forecast.

Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) mix methanol with air and water to produce electrical power and are viewed by many as a potential successor to lithium-ion and other batteries used in devices such as notebook personal computers and other portable electronics devices. Their by-products are heat and water.

NEC's new prototype has a power unit that is 20 percent smaller than the company's previous prototype and has an output density of 70 milliwatts per square centimeter, the company said in a statement. The new fuel cell also includes a control system that helps optimize power output for operations such as machine start-up and shut-down, it said.

It will be unveiled on Wednesday when the World PC Expo exhibition begins in Tokyo.

A single 250 cubic-centimeter methanol fuel cartridge can provide enough power to run a notebook PC for 10 hours, said NEC. The prototype machine is based on a 1.1GHz Pentium M processor and has 256M bytes of memory, a 40G-byte hard disk drive, 12.1-inch color TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) and runs the Windows XP Professional operating system.

A picture of the prototype released by NEC on Tuesday showed that the fuel cell resembles a notebook computer dock. The entire PC sits on top of most of the fuel cell and just past the back of the computer the cell rises to the same height as the PC.

Several prototypes developed as part of the company's DMFC research have been show before and the company has previously said it planned to have a commercial product on the market in 2004. However, this date has now been put back to around 2007.

While development of fuel cell technology is more or less at the point where it can be commercialized, a number of other issues have yet to be solved, said Diane Foley, a spokeswoman for NEC in Tokyo.

These include regulations regarding carriage and use of fuel cells on airplanes and other forms of public transport. NEC had been hoping that such legal hurdles to commercialization would have been cleared by this year but it now expects this to happen around 2007, thus the delay, said Foley.

There are other issues that need to be solved including standardization of fuel cell cartridges and establishment of a sales network were new cartridges or fuel can be purchased.

Earlier this year the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) formed a working group to draw up standards to ensure compatibility between micro fuel-cells after prompting from Toshiba and other Japanese companies. The group will attempt to set a standard for compatibility between fuel cells and fuel cartridges and hopes to set common guidelines by 2007, a spokesman for Toshiba said at the time of the group's founding.

At the Ceatec Japan 2004 exhibition in Japan in early October, Hitachi showed a DMFC prototype for use with notebook computers that it said will be available in 2006.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?