Apple patents promise fuel cell-powered laptops

Posted by Kate Taylor

Apple appears to be looking at the possibility of powering notebooks using hydrogen fuel cells - potentially giving them a battery life of weeks.

It's applied for two patents entitled titled 'Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device' and 'Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device'.

These describe how fuel cells could be built into electronics devices and managed to optimize performance while keeping weight down.

"Hydrogen fuel cells have a number of advantages. Such fuel cells and associated fuels can potentially achieve high volumetric and gravimetric energy densities, which can potentially enable continued operation of portable electronic devices for days or even weeks without refueling," reads one of the applications.

"However, it is extremely challenging to design hydrogen fuel cell systems which are sufficiently portable and cost-effective to be used with portable electronic devices."

The idea of using fuel cells for portable devices has been around for some time - Hitachi produced a methanol-based prototype back in 2003, for example. But while most existing versions are designed as separate charging devices, Apple's planning to incorporate them right into the laptop itself.

"This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system," the second patent application reads.

However, making such devices at a reasonable cost could be quite some time away.