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Casio Develops Smallest Fuel Cell for Laptop PCs

Casio has developed the world’s smallest fuel cell for use in laptops and aims to market it in 2007.

The polymer electrolyte fuel cell, which is being developed for use in automobiles and home appliances, has been miniaturized to almost the same size as a conventional lithium ion battery. Its capacity is nearly four times higher than that of a conventional battery and it can power a typical laptop computer for eight to sixteen hours.

The unit features a device that extracts hydrogen from a methanol and sends the hydrogen to the main fuel cell. Casio has been working with Akira Igarashi, an engineering professor at Kogakuin University, and has succeeded in making the device as small as a 500 yen coin so that the entire unit would fit into a laptop. Casio overcame the problem of extreme heat, caused by the device that extracts the hydrogen, by wrapping the unit in a heatproof case, among other methods.

Fuel cells that use methanol are also under development, but require pumps to handle liquid methanol, making the entire unit to large to fit into a laptop. Under current law, methanol is treated as a dangerous substance because it is flammable; this makes it difficult for manufactures and causes them to take excessive safety measures.

Government regulators, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, are considering deregulation as early as 2007 so that fuel cells may be able to then be used widely. Casio hopes to bring its fuel cell to the market after the deregulation occurs.

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