One of the coolest gadgets at MWC – a portable fuel cell

Myfc from Mike Butcher on Vimeo.

One of the more interesting objects on display at Mobile World Congress this year was one produced by a Swedish company, enabling people in developing countries to charge their mobile phone. But no, this was not a car battery or an electrical generator on a bicycle. This was a small portable fuel cell.

Think about it. Mobile base stations can often now reach far into the countryside, even in some previously remote places in Africa. But actually keeping the phone charged is an issue.

myFC is a small hydrogen fuel cell power source which will still work under extreme environmental conditions. The exterior plastic housing appears to be be very durable and it has no moving parts.

How does it work? The fuel cell silently converts hydrogen into electricity via its “Proton Exchange Membrane”. The only by-product from the fuel cell is a little water vapor. To operate, hydrogen is drawn from a small packet of energised aluminium powder, water added and voila, power comes out. In theory you could stockpile these packets of powder and just use them as needed (though of course there remains the issue of how much they’d cost and how affordable they’d be for people in developing countries).

mFC comes in three different forms. Two for outdoor use and one prototype which could be attached to the back of a laptop screen.

I was pretty impressed. Check out the video above.