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Fuel Cells for Laptops Due Next Week 186

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the power-to-go dept.
prostoalex writes "AVC and Antig Technology will demo a production-ready fuel cell for laptops next week on CeBIT trade show. According to PC Magazine, 'the CD-ROM size fuel cell will fit within the media bay of a notebook PC, replacing the drive with additional battery power.' The fuel cell battery will last 8 hours."
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Fuel Cells for Laptops Due Next Week

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  • Like these (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2503291.stm [bbc.co.uk])... Seriously, heat generated by laptops, "tank" of methanol, and everything close to something 'precious' is a little un-nerving!
  • The article doesn't give much more information about the technology that was given in the summary. Hopefully we will see some specs for this promising tech soon!
    • Power Brick (Score:4, Insightful)

      by shmlco (594907) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:50AM (#14840609) Homepage
      I don't get it. Practically every manufacturer uses a different form factor for CD bays, and many more than one. How hard is it going to be to find one of these for your favorite notebook? What about notebooks that don't have swapable bays?

      A better option would be to make a power "brick" with a DC output and a number of tips for popular notebooks, much as currently done for universal power supplies. You could then make a single device that works with a lot more notebooks, and have more power available as it's not constrained to fit into a particular form factor.

      • Re:Power Brick (Score:4, Informative)

        by SirCyn (694031) on Friday March 03, 2006 @01:44AM (#14840810) Journal
        What decade are you living in? Most all laptops these days use the standard slimline cd-rom. They just have a different front bezel attached.
        • "They just have a different front bezel attached."

          Precisely. Often permanently attached. And not "all" support an extra battery at that location. And, of course, there are notebooks and sub-notebooks without CD-ROM bays at all. And Macs with slot-loading, non-removeable drives. Or Panasonic Toughbooks with their top-loading drives. Or...

          Never mind. It's apparent that "most all" of the notebooks with which you're personally familiar adequately represent the entire notebook universe.

          • He might have use the wrong wording, but he is right, more or less. Many notebooks support standard slimline drives with a custom bezel and sometimes an adapter board and casing. Laptops with such drive bays are so popular that you can buy slimline notebook drives all over the place, sold by manufacturer name ("LG"), not notebook brand. Many laptops work fine with a the drive's built in bezel, though.

            Personally, I think this is brilliant. Here everybody was thinking about how far off fuel cell notebooks wer
          • It's most likely a best effort decision. Otherwise they pretty much have to worry about either making the thing in the size/shape of several hundred primary/secondary battery packs.

            And not "all" support an extra battery at that location
            Then the people who bought those notebooks aren't getting to use one, at least internally.

            At least at first, the biggest consumers for this product will probably willingly replace their laptops to get one that's compatible. They'll probably have laptops capable of accepting
        • Re:Power Brick (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shmlco (594907)
          And while we're on the subject, "most all" notebooks these days use a power brick to supply DC power. A move which also allows them to easily use 12v DC car chargers and plug into airline power outlets. In fact, I dare say that more notebooks do that than they use a specific CD/DVD drive form factor... which is why I made the suggestion in the first place.
          • Re:Power Brick (Score:2, Interesting)

            by JazzCrazed (862074)

            You're absolutely right on that... My laptop doesn't have a swappable drive bay (its slimline drive is "integrated," according to Acer), but it sure does use a power brick with a standard-looking barrel plug.

            I think the main issue for people is that most don't want to have a big brick/box hanging off their laptop if they can avoid it.

            But obviously if this fuel cell were integrated into an external box with a modular plug, then it would have applications outside of laptops - you could use it to power/cha

  • Fuel air bomb? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fredklein (532096) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:56PM (#14840399)
    Seriously, what would be the travel restrictions with these? Will airlines (or more precisely the TSA) allow me onboard with, say a dozen of these? Or even just one?
    • by Comatose51 (687974) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:11AM (#14840462) Homepage
      Seriously, what would be the travel restrictions with these? Will airlines (or more precisely the TSA) allow me onboard with, say a dozen of these? Or even just one?

      Answer your question:

      Airlines: Yes if you're part of the platinum elite patrician class. No if you're flying as a proletariat.

      TSA: Yes if you hand over your DNA, pictures of your family, especially your sexy, hot wife (don't worry about this one Slashdot), and prove that you're a supporter of the current administration. No if you're an average law-abidding citizen.

      Jokes aside, it seems to me that if they allow even one, they might as well allow more since a malicious group of people can each carry one and get together while in the air.

    • Re:Fuel air bomb? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:29AM (#14840525) Journal
      I am amazed that they let you fly with lithium-ion batteries. A lithium-ion (or lithium polymer) battery is basically a bomb with a bit of electronics trying to persuade it that it's really a battery.

      On a lighter note, have you ever been asked at an airport if you are carrying anything that can be used as a weapon? What do they imagine you might be carrying that can't be used as a weapon?

    • The FAA has approved methanol-water fuel cells as carry-ons.
    • I'm guessing it would simiar to lighter/light fluids. You will be allowed to carry up to 1 cartridge with you, but if you need more, you'll have to buy it at destination.
  • by jxyama (821091) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:58PM (#14840410)
    There's no mention/plan on how to refill the thing. Also, it weighs a lot - more than 3 lbs, which could almost double some laptops' overall weight. It may be "production-ready" in the sense it can be manufactured and used, but I don't think it's "production-ready" in the real worls sense at all.
    • I dunno ... if the 8-hour life is true I'm sure there are a good few people who would be willing to trade a few pounds for that kind of outlet-free time.
    • "There's no mention/plan on how to refill the thing."

      That's a show-stopper for me. I'd love to be able to deploy robust and renewable energy sources for field research, and for Internet access in very remote areas. If I can refuel these things myself (even if that means buying some patent-pending refuelly whizbanger for a mere 42 gazillion bucks), then I'm very interested. But if it's not trivially refillable, it's worse than deadweight.

      "Also, it weighs a lot - more than 3 lbs, which could almost double

      • The good news is, it basically runs on vodka.
        The bad news is, it only likes the really good stuff.

        100cc worth of the lab grade methanol it uses (why couldn't they have made it run on ethanol, which is so much better for the environment (and your belly)) is about a buck or two, if I recall correctly.
    • 3 lbs full or empty? I'm guessing methanol isn't massless.
    • For refilling, if there's a will, there will be a way to refill the cartridges (like the HP ink cartridges). The 3lbs weight is a problem to me. I have a Dell 700M with a removable bay, but the laptop itself is only 4 pounds. There's a reason why people stay away from desktop-replacments.
      On the other hand, I can imagine a battery-renting business at the airport or converntion centers. You won't have to carry it or buy it, just rent it for 5 bucks to wait for your much-delayed flight. (Now a even better excu
  • by TheDarkener (198348)
    Imagine how this will EXPLODE on the laptop market! Can you just imagine the FIRE in the eyes of who sees this? How about the PAIN existing latpop battery makers will face once this product FLUSHES through, like a HOTCAKE!!

    HA! HA!.....uuugh....
  • I thought the fuel cell technology was much more promising than 8 hours. That's still less than three times longer compared with my standard laptop battery. Or is the main point that it's refillable/reusable?
    • Well, for one, this lasts you most of your workday. 2nd, once your laptop uses smaller conventional batteries and frees up more space for fuel cell technology, you should see it approach 18 hours or so, which is literally a day worth, if you sleep the other 6 hours. Not to mention that if one pack is done, you can go exchange it for a full one at the local kiosk, vending machine, or post office.
    • Or is the main point that it's refillable/reusable?

      Apparently not:

      Neither Antig nor AVC stated what the fuel-cell module would cost, nor offered any plan for consumers to refill them

      If they're publicly traded companies, I know which way I'd place options.

  • 8 hours? (Score:4, Funny)

    by chris_eineke (634570) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:00AM (#14840422) Homepage Journal
    It'll last 8 minutes w/ my AMD64 laptop! This thing eats electrons like pacman eats yellow pills.
    • Er, no (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brian Stretch (5304) *
      I know I shouldn't feed the troll, but...

      HP made two versions of their HP zv5000 and Compaq R3000 notebooks two years ago, an Intel P4 version and an AMD Athlon 64 version. With a 12 cell battery, the AMD version gets 3-4 hours of battery life in average use. I was able to play just over 3 HOURS of DVD video on mine.

      The P4 version gets about an hour. HP wisely decided to drop Intel CPUs from the following year's zv6000/R4000 lines.

      So, substitute "Prescott-core P4" for "AMD64" in the parent post to make i
      • substitute "Prescott-core P4" for "AMD64" in the parent post to make it a lot more accurate.
        Erm, no. I am writing this on my AMD64-laptop right now. It does have a Mobile Athlon64 processor, but not a Turion.

        I get about 1:45h w/ all kinds of power savings enabled, no wifi, and LCD at medium brightness. And that was out of the box.
        • Erm, no. I am writing this on my AMD64-laptop right now. It does have a Mobile Athlon64 processor, but not a Turion.

          I get about 1:45h w/ all kinds of power savings enabled, no wifi, and LCD at medium brightness. And that was out of the box.


          What size battery? What's your battery wear level? Use MobileMeter [geocities.co.jp]'s Battery Info tab to find that. I've run into lots of people on r3000forums.com and the HP forum on notebookreview.com who've had battery runtime issues that were traced to their Li-ion batteries weari
    • My 12" iBook really does get almost 8 hours on a charge, no problem.

      And if I'm near enough to civilization to have the wireless work, I'm near enough to just plug it in anyway. And if I'm not in wireless range, it's intentional and I don't want to be on a computer at all.

      But maybe you have one of those "portable" desktop systems, heavily promoted by chiropractors since they are great for business.
      • I never understood why people bought the desktop replacement notebooks. The smaller notebooks easily have enough power to run almost all applications except games and maybe video editing. Lots of people think it's a really good idea until they have to carry the thing around. Then they wish they had bought an iBook or other actual portable computer.
        • Mostly because we want a Portable Desktop Replacement. I am fine with say a 3-4 Battery life on my laptop for most cases. Because I am normally near a plug. or will be near one in 3-4 hours. I know a lot of people love desktops because they are cheaper and more powerful. But I like to be able to move it around to where ever I am. I don't need a Tiny one. But something like the MacBook/Powerbook 17" is great. It is small enough to cary in one hand or in a normal size case. Then power it up and then plug
          • I know a lot of people who had these laptops in university. Definitely a bad idea. If you had 2 lectures in a row then you were pretty much out of luck, unless you could get one of the few precious seats next to an outlet. Often students would carry powerbars with them so they could share the outlets. Remember the whole centrino pitch by intel, that was supposed to disconnect you, so you wouldn't have to be tethered down by wires. I don't think that's happened yet. I should be able to go a whole day
        • Because most people use their personaly bought computers for playing games and reading slashdot. If your not then you are probably working and you take what ever computer they give you.
        • Personally, because I use my laptop while sat in front of the TV. A desktop would be useless - the monitor would fall off my lap, but I still want to be able to run pretty powerful apps (database, app server, Football Manager etc). I rarely carry it anywhere, and rarely use it unplugged.
    • ..does it make the same sound as when Pacman dies?
  • Refilling? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bflong (107195) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:01AM (#14840426)
    From TFA:
    Neither Antig nor AVC stated what the fuel-cell module would cost, nor offered any plan for consumers to refill them, however. Both companies are based in Taiwan, and company representatives were unavailable for comment.

    What? I can't refill it? Whats the point then?
    Nothing to see here... Please move along...
  • Price? (Score:4, Funny)

    by jemenake (595948) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:02AM (#14840428)
    Something tells me that the initial price of these fuel cells is going to exceed the price of the laptop itself. In fact, I'll bet it'll be cheaper for me to buy a car batter, an inverter, and a sherpa to carry them while he follows me everywhere. :)
    • dude, you don't need an inverter, you just need a DC to DC convertor and the appropriate plug on the end of the lead. Why convert to AC just to plug the laptop AC adaptor into it... get hold of a Cigar lighter socket (and some leads to hook up to the battery with) and the appropriate Car DC adaptor to run your laptop from.
      • Most computer PSU's actually are just DC-DC converters. They take the incoming AC, rectify it and use it to charge a capacitor (typically to around 170VDC, but they will usually run happily at lower voltage, check the specs for the PSU for the rating).

        This isn't much help if you don't have a source of fairly high voltage DC available, but if you feel like putting some 12v cells in series you can directly power a computer PSU with it.
  • I'd Buy It (Score:4, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:03AM (#14840435) Homepage

    If true, I'd buy it.

    My last laptop (a Dell Inspiron 8000) I kept two batteries in (it was a three spindle notebook). This increased the weight, but gave me over three hours of battery life with normal use (it was a desktop replacement that just loved to eat batteries). I would gladly replace one in that notebook with one of these for the extra battery life (if I still had it).

    My currently laptop is a Apple PowerBook (15", Feb 2005 model). I'm not sure it would have the room necessary for one of these to replace the standard battery, but I would gladly do it (I currently get 3 hours of use, or about 45 min if I run a full-on 3D game with the laptop in "high performance" mode).

    I would be much more interested if it was a closed system that could recharge it's self (like a fuel-cell could be set up). That said, it's 45w of power and almost 4 pounds. My current battery is 46 watts and less than 1.8 pounds. And I know the newer PowerBooks and MacBook Pros have better batteries than mine.

    3 more watts, double the weight. How will that give me 8 hours of battery life? I'm skeptical. Maybe in an ultra-light notebook with a slow processor doing word processing.

    Still, at least someone is about to market something other than a "normal" battery.

    • 3 more watts, double the weight. How will that give me 8 hours of battery life?

      Er, I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. You do realize that watts are a measure of energy output per second rather than total energy?

      Also, there's no infrastructure for refilling the cell right now, so this can't be marketed. It's only a technology demo.

      • Re:I'd Buy It (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MBCook (132727)
        When they say "Watts" with computer batteries, aren't they usually referring to "Watt-hours" and not true watts? That is what I was basing things off of.

        For example, my laptop's battery is supposed to be 42 Watts. System profiler tells me it is about 12v, and full charge capacity of 4100 mAh. Multiply it out and you get 49 Watt-hours. If you take into account the voltage will drop as the battery discharges and the battery becomes useless at certain voltage level, it probably has 42 Watt-hours of useful ene

        • ...and my computer does not have an UPS installed according to System Profiler (that is an option on any Mac?)
          Presumably, Mac OS supports those external UPSs that have USB connections to automatically shut down the computer when the power goes out.
        • When they say "Watts" with computer batteries, aren't they usually referring to "Watt-hours" and not true watts?

          Ah, googling a bit it seems you're right. I guess I'm the idiot who didn't know my units. That's pretty confusing usage, though.

        • there's NO such beast as Watt Hours... the capacity of a battery is measured in Amp-Hours... the number of Amps it can supply for one hour or the number of hours it can output one Amp...
          • I'll take 50Ah battery. Please make it 200V.
          • yes but amp hours are useless info without also knowing what voltage the power is delivered at. 1 amp hour of 12 volts is far different from 1 amp hour of 120 volts. Nothing wrong with watt hours. Your electric bill comes in kw-hr's.

            In either case 45 watt hours is almost certainly incorrect for this device if it could run a laptop for 8 hours. More likely it can deliver 45 watts continuously for 8 hours which would actually be 360 watt hours. IE 1 watt for 360 hours or 45 watts for 8 hours. Which delivered
          • sweet, I'll tell that to those lying SOBs at the power company! Every month they send me a bill for kw-hours used.
        • I thought you were nuts, but it looks like you're right. I have a laptop battery here, and it says 14.8v, 4460 mAH, 66 Whr.

          Note that it says 66 watt-hours, not 66 watts. I think you must have been mistaken in your original post saying the battery was sold as a 49 watt battery. Either that or the marketing department is lazy/ignorant.

          I would also note that this is pretty weird notation. I think it's the first time I've seen batteries rated by watt-hours rather than amp-hours. I guess it would make sense
    • Re:I'd Buy It (Score:3, Informative)

      by wed128 (722152)
      Wattage has nothing to do with battery life. The fact that the battery can put out 3 more watts just means it's capable of more throughput...think of it like a widemouth beer can. It's increased flow has nothing to do with capacity.
  • ... the TSAs policy on these things. I can't see them allowing the average traveller to carry them on board. I guess I'll be checking my laptop from now on?
  • by tinrobot (314936) on Friday March 03, 2006 @12:07AM (#14840448)
    I think it would still be more convenient to simply plug the laptop into the wall, a car outlet, or even a solar array for a recharge. If you're in the absolute middle of nowhere, you could carry an extra battery or two and it probably wouldn't be much more volume/weight than a pack of methanol containers. On top of that, hotel rooms, conference rooms, coffee shops and other places I use my laptop don't have methanol dispensers, but almost all of them have plenty of free electricity.

    Besides, 8 hours is not that huge of an improvement over batteries. Fuel cells seem to have promise, but I won't be switching until I can run a laptop for days at a time.
  • Whenever a new technology is promised by a certain time, they're never right.

    If history is any guide, it'll take at least _two_ weeks.
  • 8 hours? that can be achieved with li-polymer, without the need to gas up your laptop.

    especially since by the time this crap comes out, intel will have it's ultra low power core chips out (45 nm) for laptops that are supposed to get 8 hours or more battery life (late 06)
    • And, presumably, the fuel cell would still allow machines with those chips to run much longer between recharging, since the merit of the technology is greater power to volume ratios.
  • The methanol-powered Antig fuel cell provides 45 watts of power on a single "tank" of methanol, and weighs 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg).

    The expense of hiring a bodybuilder to carry your laptop for you seems rather high.
  • Not next decade, not next year, but next week! Never is a new technology coming out next week. It's either coming out in the not-too-distant future, or it's already here. I'm scared at this change...
  • Slashdot=stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by gotak (547354) on Friday March 03, 2006 @01:46AM (#14840825) Homepage
    Wee lets all look at the link on yahoo news. How come on one thought of going to the manufacturer's website?

    http://www.antig.com/english/mediabay.html [antig.com]

    It used cartridges. There you go your refill.
  • Imagine gas stations to fill up your car and your laptop.
  • To everybody wondering about refilling the MeOH solution that these cells use - it probably won't be practical. The 'fuel' needs to be very pure, otherwise catalyst poisoning will destroy your very expensive fuel cell. I imagine swappable methanol cartridges just like AA batteries might be available - one day.
  • No one will buy it, hell a Li battery lasts that long, I thought these things were supposed to last like 20 hours or more. All the promises, broken ;)
  • by ishmalius (153450) on Friday March 03, 2006 @06:41AM (#14841568)
    If these cells are not refillable, then they are useless for extended uses, such as the enormous power outages during the hurricanes last year. With a simple cheap windup or pump kinetic generator, then the fuel for this can be anything I like, such as muffalettas, marinated olives, or Jolt Cola.
  • I have always maintained that those people condemed to carry a laptop around must have beheaved very badly in a previous life ( think Pol Pot, or, day time TV soap producer).
    So heres another 1.7 kilos to lug around, which seems somewhat unfair, would it be possable to restrict this improvemnet to members of the legal profession, indeed, it should be made a compulsary accessory for patent lawers.

    On a more serious note, why mess around with the CD bay format. Every poratable I have ever owned has a little 12v
  • by xoip (920266)
    Drop...and Roll when the thing catches fire! Refilling the thing will be like topping up a fondue pot...don't do it around an open flame

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