MTI Micro Fuel Cells’ new Mobion technology will make it easier for manufacturers to build long-lasting DMFC (direct methanol fuel cell) technology for industrial and consumer handheld devices, says William Acker, president and chief executive officer of the company.
Fuel cell technology is already used to extend the operating life of large industrial devices. Several companies are working to see if the technology can be miniaturized for use in cell phones and notebooks, but many hurdles remain, including whether consumers will want to pay for replacement fuel cartridges.
Fuel cells produce power when a mixture of methanol and water enters the cell and reacts with oxygen to produce energy, carbon dioxide, and more water. Much of the early work in fuel-cell technology has used a series of pumps and valves to return the excess water produced in the reaction back to the methanol reservoir, where the two liquids mix and are returned to the fuel cell.
The Mobion technology directs a 100 percent methanol solution into a fuel cell on one side of a thin membrane. The methanol reacts with a catalyst on the membrane and a combination of water and oxygen drawn from the other side of the cell. The protons from those molecules pass through the membrane, but the electrons are redirected out of the cell and captured as energy.