The New York Times writes:
“The battery has become the laggard in new technology,” said William P. Acker, president and chief executive of MTI Micro Fuel Cells, a miniature-fuel-cell developer based in Albany.
Unlike the fuel cells that are being touted as a way to power cars and trucks, the smaller versions do not use hydrogen gas as a fuel. Hydrogen is explosive, and using it with small devices would pose storage and safety problems. If nothing else, security concerns would probably make it impossible for airline passengers to carry, say, an MP3 player with even a small cylinder of hydrogen attached.
Instead, the fuel of choice in small fuel cells is methanol, an alcohol that is most commonly produced from natural gas, although it can be produced using coal or even the foul-smelling gas from landfills. Inside the cell, the methanol combines with water to make carbon dioxide, hydrogen ions and electrons.