Fuel Cells

The Economist writes:

Miniature fuel cells, which generate electricity by reacting hydrogen with oxygen, can do much better than batteries – at least in a laboratory. The question is whether they can ever do so in the real world.

The key to making fuel cells small is to replace the hydrogenor, rather, to deliver it in a non-gaseous form, since it is hardly practical to fit portable electronic devices with pressurised cylinders. In the long run, there may be ways round this, for instance by absorbing the gas in metal hydrides or carbon nanotubes. But in the short term the solution seems to be to deliver the hydrogen as part of a hydrogen-rich compound, such as methanol. This is a liquid, which means it is easy to handle. Sachets of methanol fuel, purchased at newspaper kiosks, rather like refills for cigarette lighters, could be inserted with little fuss into electronic devices.

Fuel cells could be the way to meet the increasing power requirements of laptop computers and other portable devices in the future.

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