Researchers in France today announced they had invented a hydrogen fuel cell that can be used as a backup power source for mobile phones. It is hoped this will increase the usage time between battery recharges.
Different groups have been working on miniature hydrogen fuel cells for a few years now. This version, which is being developed by Bic, the company that makes pens, lighters and razors, is meant to augment a handsets battery. The device is designed to be part of a hybrid system in which the phone draws on its conventional battery first and taps into the fuel cell as power is needed.
The fuel cell is filled with hydrogen and is about the size of a small cigarette lighter. Each cartridge can recharge a typical cell phone battery three to five times before it runs out of hydrogen. According to STMicroeletronics executive Igor Bimbaud, the hydrogen cartridge will reach the market in early 2010.
This type of fuel cell does have one major concern, safety. A typical miniature hydrogen fuel cell has to be pressurized at two or three atmospheres. Not a lot but enough to cause concern. Hydrogen is highly volatile and can explode with tremendous energy. Remember the Hindenburg disaster? That zeppelin was filled with hydrogen gas which unexpectedly exploded. The developers of this technology have the basic science done. Now they have to engineer a storage device that proves to be safe in most environments.