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Fuel cell technology could power future iPads

Andrew Williams by

iPad mini

Apple is working with a British energy firm on bringing fuel cell technology to future Apple devices, according to latest reports.

Fuel cell company Intelligent Energy is working with Apple, according to unnamed sources cited by the Daily Mail.

Intelligent Energy teased such a collaboration earlier this month when it floated on the stock market, at which time it announced a fistful of patents in concert with a major technology player.

Why should you care about fuel cell technology? A fuel cell could in theory run for far longer than a conventional battery, as used in the current iPad Air and iPad mini models. We’re talking days of constant use potentially.

While we know not to take anything the Daily Mail writes as gospel, it claims to have “senior US sources” confirming the collaboration.

The main difference between conventional batteries and fuel cells is that while the battery stores a finite chemical reserve, a fuel cell has a consistent chemical reserve, and only needs to be supplied with catalysts to provide energy. In a hydrogen fuel cell, these catalysts are oxygen and hydrogen.

Apple patents detailing the use of hydrogen fuel cells in its devices go all the way back to 2011, including one entry that specifically detailed a fuel cell stack being used to power a mobile device.

The dream this conjured, and still does, is phone or tablet you won’t have to charge for weeks, bringing back the sort of stamina we only had before the days of smartphones.

Shortly after its IPO on the stock exchange earlier this month, Intelligent Energy announced it had raised $94.1 million in funds.

The company is valued at $811 million, making it the most ‘valuable’ fuel cell company in the world.

Next, read our iPad Air review

Go to comments

Jmac

July 15, 2014, 12:54 pm

You mean oxygen and hydrogen are the REACTANTS, not the catalysts. The fuel cell itself catalyses the reaction between O2 and H2, and extracts the reaction energy as an electric current.

Andrew_TR

July 15, 2014, 1:11 pm

Sorry, my scientific chops on the subject clearly failed at the first hurdle!

schriss

July 15, 2014, 3:35 pm

Hydrogen fuel cells require hugely overpriced hydrogen cartridges, very few solutions come with (expensive) charging stations that allow to recharge used up hydrogen cartridge yourself.

I have only seen one cheap (for the end user) fuel cell charger solution that uses cheap lighter gas (butane), but not sure if that made it out of prototype phase.

Prem Desai

July 15, 2014, 3:49 pm

I wonder if they'll keep the fuel cell sealed (like they do with their batteries) so you can't change it ..!!

Sean Cameron

July 15, 2014, 8:45 pm

Wonder what the trade off in price will be though

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