Antig confident of fuel cell success

Soon you could be running your laptop computer all day without the need to recharge as commercial versions of fuel cells go on sale.

Taiwanese manufacturer Antig has claimed that its fuel cell product will be commercially deployed in notebook PCs in 2007.

The first versions of the methanol-using units should keep a laptop going for up to nine hours. Fuel cell technology got a boost recently when international air flight regulators changed rules that banned passengers from carrying flammable methanol onto aircraft.

Linnet Tsai, deputy-marketing manager for Antig, says “The first fuel cells to go on sale would marry familiar lithium-ion batteries with the methanol-based technology.”

Instead of storing power, fuel cells generate electricity by breaking down methanol via an electrochemical process.

Topping them up with methanol from a cartridge can recharge the fuel cells.

“The industry is getting our fuel cell module now,” said Linnet Tsai. “Consumers will be next, once the manufacturers have validated our product.”

Preparing sales channels and the delivery system so consumers find it easy to get hold of methanol cartridges is estimated to take a few more months.

Antig’s product doesn’t offer the promise of such high performance. Its product is a hybrid fuel cell, which means that the laptop uses a standard Lithium-ion battery as well as the fuel cell. The fuel cell fits into the media bay of the laptop, replacing a CD or DVD drive.

Antig’s fuel cell can not be used as the exclusive power source because it only delivers a power output of 12W says Tsai.

“When you turn on your PC, you need 60W to boot it up. Once you’re running normally, you’ll use around 12W so you’d just use the fuel cell then, and when the PC is in standby mode you can charge the laptop battery from the fuel cell,” Tsai explained.