ROHM demos compact hydrogen fuel cell

Oct 03, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
ROHM demos compact hydrogen fuel cell

(Phys.org)—Japanese electronic parts supplier ROHM has unveiled a compact hydrogen fuel cell, capable of recharging cell phones, tablet computers, etc., at this year's CEATEC—Japan's largest consumer electronics show. The fuel cell is available in two configurations: one that serves as a phone jacket, and one that works as a standalone USB device. While it can be stored for up to twenty years, the cell is good for just one charging session.

The main attraction of the is its size: the jacket version adds minimal bulk to a phone, while the stand-alone version is slightly bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Company reps at the show claim the fuel cell can charge a phone in about two hours. A major detraction, however, is its longevity. Once a fuel cell has been depleted, it must be thrown away, including the attractive casing.

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Credit: Diginfo

The fuel by creating hydrogen from a very small sheet of resin-solidified calcium compound. It is then combined with polymer electrolyte power generation technology to create five watt hours of electricity. The sheet of calcium is sealed in plastic and, according to ROHM representatives, the fuel cell will work as long as it remains sealed. As such, the fuel cell could be stored for many years, making it an attractive option for long-term storage situations.

ROHM's plan, once the fuel cells become available in stores next year, is to target consumers who would purchase them as a supplemental means for recharging their phones and other electronic devices. Instead of being out of luck if their phone battery dies in the middle of the day, users can simply pop over to a , buy a fuel cell, and use it to charge their phone while they're at lunch. Of course, widespread use of such technology will lead to more unrecyclable materials heading for the local landfill; but, none of it will be toxic as is the case with batteries. The company notes that the fuel cells don't produce any , and if necessary can be chained or combined to produce more power. ROHM adds that they've also built a much larger, 200 watt version of the fuel cell charger for other applications.

The company hasn't revealed a price point for the fuel cells, but it's reasonable to assume that their disposable nature would necessitate a relatively low cost; that is, if ROHM wants to attract customers to this new technology.

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JGHunter
2 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2012
What about the plastic involved in the local landfill? Sure the battery may not be toxic, but do we really want more plastics filling the soil?
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2012
I see no reason what they couldn't be turned back in and recycled like ink jet cartridges. If the sales package came with a mailer envelope inside the packaging it would be pretty simple for people to do and could possibly lower the materials cost for the company at the same time. IF these things become popular it might lower the retail cost eventually then too.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2012
A major detraction, however, is its longevity. Once a fuel cell has been depleted, it must be thrown away, including the attractive casing.

While this is nuts from an ecological standpoint there's nothing better from a business standpoint. Throw-away articles are a gold mine.

but it's reasonable to assume that their disposable nature would necessitate a relatively low cost; that is, if ROHM wants to attract customers to this new technology.

Depends on where they sell it. In Japan people go gaga over new technology - no matter the cost/benefit ratio.
JGHunter
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2012
I see no reason what they couldn't be turned back in and recycled like ink jet cartridges.


I don't disagree with you there, but that suggests you think the majority of people give that much of a toss about recycling.

Even if the plastics are biodegradable or there are plenty of special bins for these things, people will chuck them in the nearest general waste bin. I know this, because it already happens. How much biodegradable food and recyclable plastic ends up in the kitchen bin?
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2012
@JGHunter I agree with you but if even a few do recycle them it will be that much less for a landfill. No harm in trying to keep excess out of there. It would look good on their PR too. Also there is many places around with trash cops that will fine you for stuff that's not supposed to be in the regular bin.
JGHunter
not rated yet Oct 05, 2012
@JGHunter I agree with you but if even a few do recycle them it will be that much less for a landfill. No harm in trying to keep excess out of there. It would look good on their PR too. Also there is many places around with trash cops that will fine you for stuff that's not supposed to be in the regular bin.


Yes, even if a few are recycled, that will save a minority from landfill, but it won't stop the fact a majority will end up in landfill. Well, all we need is a natural alternative to plastic and it won't be a problem *crossed fingers*
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2012
It also has electronics in it and around here the powers that be have already made it against the law to throw electronics in the trash. It has to be recycled separately and they will fine you if it's found in the regular trash on pickup day. There are already biodegradable plastics that can be used to make the outside cases.