Hitachi announced late last year that it expects to have a tiny fuel cell by 2005. It recently showed off a prototype of a handheld that will be powered by this fuel cell.
This device is more of a proof of concept than anything the company is close to shipping. The prototype weighs about 25 ounces, while most consumers consider an 8 ounce handheld to be large. Hitachi says it will reduce the size before it hits the market next year.
According to Kyodo News, this handheld computer will include a Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) which uses a platinum-ruthenium catalyst to convert methanol into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, a process which generates electricity.
The prototype has a methanol concentration of roughly 20%, though the final version will have a concentration of 30%. It was developed in partnership with Tokai, which makes cigarette lighters.
This fuel cell can currently power the device for five hours.
Plenty of Competition
There are several other companies also working to bring practical fuel cells to the market.
For example, Toshiba has said it will have a fuel cell capable of acting as an external recharger for electronic devices out in 2005. According to Toshiba, this will be capable of recharging a typical handheld or mobile phone six times. It will run off small methanol canisters.
However, Hitachi seems to be in the lead for reducing the size of a DMFC until it can fit inside a handheld or smart phone.