~e; fuel-celling 3G devices

From bc <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Fri, 4 Jan 2002 09:32:54 -0600

  [fuel-cells and 3G phone relations, due to need for power for
  increased data services (internet, telephony, video) and the
  need for a more robust power solution. once such events start
  to enter the market, maybe at higher prices, demand for better
  performance may affect other industries and products.]

Japan Bets on Fuel Cells for Tech-Toy Power
Friday December 28 2:05 PM ET

By Eriko Amaha

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tetsuya Mizoguchi, president of Toshiba Corp's
mobile communications company, keeps all his contact numbers,
schedules and even meeting memos in a sleek personal digital

As he showed off the Toshiba-made gadget to reporters, it started
flickering. The battery was low.

``I've been using this all day,'' he says, frowning. ``You don't
understand the inconvenience of recharging until you actually use
them. I have no time to go back to my desk to recharge this.''

He and others in Japan are betting on fuel cells, 21st century
versions of the bulky batteries used to power spacecraft in the
1960s, providing the solution.

As portable electronic devices become lighter, smaller and more power
hungry, calls for more powerful and longer-lasting batteries increase.

Fuel cells create electrical energy through the reaction of hydrogen
and oxygen.

Japanese electronics firms have developed prototypes for fuel-cell
batteries to power the smallest of electronic devices for longer --
and only need refueling not recharging.

Mizoguchi says Toshiba hopes to make a fuel-cell battery that turns
methanol directly into electricity and could be available to the
public within two years.

Sony Corp (news - web sites), the world's biggest electronics group,
is developing a fuel-cell battery that uses carbon molecules to allow
it to function at extreme temperatures.


These days, the bulky fuel-cell batteries that once powered
spacecraft, are mainly used to supply electricity in buildings.

Japan's largest maker of mobile handsets, NEC Corp, is collaborating
with two Japan government research bodies to develop a fuel-cell
battery that runs on methanol and uses nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology involves making or manipulating substances at minute
levels of only a few nanometers -- or billionths of a meter.

NEC says the invention's energy capacity will be 10 times that of a
regular lithium battery, allowing people to use a current-generation
mobile phone for a month without recharging, or work on a laptop
computer for a full day. Yoshimi Kubo, senior manager at NEC
Laboratories, predicts high-speed third-generation (3G) cell phones,
which require a lot of power to transmit data, may be one of the
biggest beneficiaries of fuel-cell technology.

``People will be spending more time on 3G phones (than standard
models). They will look up restaurants or shops, and download data,''
he says.

Japan's largest mobile operator, NTT DoCoMo (news - web sites) Inc,
launched the world's first 3G mobile service in October, offering
face-to-face communication.

But users of the service are shackled by a battery that allows only
100 minutes of continuous talk or 70 minutes of video-conferencing.

``I think telecom carriers are feeling a sense of crisis because 3G
and even current-generation phones do not have enough power. So they
say they want fuel-cell batteries at all cost,'' says Kubo, who aims
to make NEC's fuel-cell products commercial by 2005.


Kubo said that because of the liquid fuel, the shape of NEC's battery
could be flexible, making it easier to fit into compact devices.

Also, with methanol costing about 40 to 50 yen (31 to 39 cents) per
liter, the cost of making the battery could be lowered to about the
same price as a lithium battery, he adds. It is estimated that
lithium batteries are used in 80 percent of all laptops and 50
percent of cell phones in the world.

Tomohide Kazama, a researcher at the Nomura Research Institute, says
that although fuel-cell batteries are being developed for cars and
homes, they are better suited for portable devices, such as laptops
and camcorders.

``Users would not have to carry around a recharger with them and fuel
could be sold at convenience stores,'' he told a seminar held by
electronics trade magazine Nikkei Micro Device.

Kazama says there are some obstacles needed to be overcome before
fuel batteries will see everyday use.

For one, methanol is a regulated drug and law changes would be needed
to make the substance widely available.

But NEC's Kubo remains optimistic.

``Fuel cells are like lighters and there should be a way to solve
these problems,'' he adds.

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