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Toshiba Shows Off Fuel Cell Charger

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Toshiba Shows Off Fuel Cell Charger

A highlight of yesterday’s Toshiba Product Showcase was the chance to get some hands on time with the company’s fuel cell charger. This was launched in Japan at the tail end of last year, but there is still no confirmation on whether we’ll see a UK launch any time soon, if at all. There has been so much talk about fuel cell technology over the years that it was refreshing to get my hands on a finished product that actually worked.

The basic premise of this device is that it can charge up your mobile kit while you’re out and about, much like the plethora of recharging batteries that have been around for donkeys’ years. The big difference though, is that you still have to remember to charge those backup batteries, whereas Toshiba’s fuel cell charger just needs to be topped up with juice and it’s ready to go.

The fuel cell charger looks something like a small radiator or intercooler from a car. On the right hand side is a level gauge, which shows how much fuel is inside. The fuel in question is methanol, and Toshiba was keen to point out that it’s fully approved for travel on aeroplanes. Personally I’m not convinced that airport security will let you through the gate carrying a small bottle full of fuel, but I’ll give Toshiba the benefit of the doubt since I haven’t tried it.

The fuel is literally squeezed into a port on the bottom of the device, and once filled up it’s ready to charge pretty much anything you care to connect. The charger should be compatible with anything that would normally charge over USB, which thankfully, is pretty much everything these days. Unfortunately the units I saw didn’t have a full size USB port, so you’ll have to use an adapter in order to plug your existing cables into the charger.

Realistically this type of device will appeal to the real road warrior, who is constantly on the move and never wants to be caught short without power. The ability to simply create power whenever you need it is undoubtedly impressive, but carrying the charger and a supply of fuel everywhere you go isn’t the most convenient or elegant solution.

As a proof of concept though, the fuel cell charger makes a strong statement. Will we be seeing mobile devices with this technology built in one day? Your phone or notebook runs out of juice and you simply pump some fuel into it and away you go! Now that could herald a new era in mobile technology.

Stephen

February 11, 2010, 4:22 pm

I was curious as to how much you get out of it and did some searching, just thought I'd post here for anyone else.


Its output is 5v and 500mA. Its tank is 14ml and one fill of this will apparently charge an avergae cell phone battery twice (n95 battery is 1200mAh). The refil bottle is 50ml.





Not really sure how big an uptake there would be on this but , I still like the technology a lot.

Ryan131

February 11, 2010, 6:29 pm

Looks like this is the required chicken-egg bootstrap that any successful tech needs...





I for one look forward to bowing down to our Methanoverlords!

Ben

February 11, 2010, 7:37 pm

@Stephen - interesting. I think this device would have to be a lot more efficient for it to have much appeal. Very niche.

Stelph

February 11, 2010, 8:10 pm

Will future models work on other -ol's like alcohol? I can see a future where you dont have to worry about your phone running out of power on a night out, just buy yourself and your phone a shot and get on with the night..

Hans Gruber

February 11, 2010, 10:17 pm

@Stelph, like a redbull & vodka? One for you and one for the road, eh? Interesting distribution method, instead of petrol stations we could use the existing public house infrastructure and have a handy little methanol pump for phones, mp3s and other electronic devices. Indy car racing used to rely on methanol fuel and during the time of the first Gulf War, until gasoline prices stabilised and reduced significantly, methanol was a popular biofuel in the Yoo-Ess of A. So it will probably continue to proliferate in its use, along with ethanol.





I got myself a 2.5 litre bottle of methanol once upon a time, since it was much cheaper than buying Eclipse fluid (for cleaning DSRL camera sensors). They use methanol for all sorts. It's highly toxic though, so you definitely wouldn't want to drink it by accident (leads to blindness by destroying the optic nerve and death by formic acid in the blood as it's metabolised by the liver). Interestingly, the toxic effects can be reversed/lessened with a bit of ethanol (amongst other things) though I wouldn't want to try it out.

Chris

February 11, 2010, 11:15 pm

Cool device. Apparently some transport authorities have actually relaxed rules specifically to allow aircraft passengers to carry methanol for fuel cells. I suppose companies like Toshiba wouldn't bother investing in the development if they hadn't.





http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...

Ben

February 12, 2010, 8:19 am

@red - have you totally been watching House, too? =)

Hans Gruber

February 12, 2010, 4:54 pm

@Ben - No I've not yet seen a single episode I'm sorry to say. Hugh Laurie talking with an American accent still weirds me out somewhat. Had a quick look at a wiki and it looks worth watching though I'm a little behind in the series!

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