September 16, 2005 1:12 PM PDT

A fuel cell to gas up your MP3 player

Toshiba is gearing up to release a fuel cell cartridge powered by methanol that could keep an iPod running for an additional two and a half days without a recharge.

The Tokyo-based company said it is testing prototypes of what it calls a direct methanol fuel cell, or DMFC. The cartridge contains a passive supply of the alternative fuel in highly concentrated form, which produces electricity by causing a chemical reaction.

Refilling a direct methanol fuel cell in an MP3 player
Credit: Toshiba

After three years of delays, Toshiba said commercial products based on the technology are expected to appear on store shelves in 2007.

Fuel cells usually use alcohol or hydrogen as fuel and can offer five to 10 times the power per unit weight as lithium-ion batteries.

Toshiba is developing two versions of the fuel cell. One is formatted for flash-based digital music players such as Apple Computer's iPod Shuffle. The other is for digital music players based on hard disk drives (HDD), such as the iPod Photo or Toshiba's Gigabeat player.

Toshiba said its 100-milliwatt version is similar in shape and size to a pack of gum and can power a flash-based player for approximately 35 hours on a single 3.5-milliliter charge.

A 300-milliwatt version of the fuel cell is about the size of a pack of playing cards and has enough juice to power an HDD-based player for approximately 60 hours on a single 10-milliliter charge.

More battery power for music players

Toshiba did not say if the fuel cells would ultimately be designed to allow consumers to refill, as shown in the accompanying image, or if the cells would be sold as a disposable product only. That may depend in part on the findings of the International Electrotechnical Commission, which is reviewing a draft of safety standards based on international standardization specifications for micro fuel cells.

The two types of MP3 player and their methanol cartridges are expected to go on display at the Ceatec Japan 2005 trade show in October.

Other technology companies are working on similar devices to enhance the battery life of mobile devices such as notebooks, MP3 players and mobile phones.

IBM and Sanyo Electric have developed a prototype of a methanol-based fuel cell system for ThinkPad notebooks. The fuel cell can be charged by means of an auxiliary docking station, which also provides an alternative power supply.

Fuel cell developer UltraCell has come up with a new fuel cell power source for portable electronic devices that it says has twice the energy density of lithium batteries.

Medis makes a disposable fuel cell, called Power Pack, that provides an additional 20 hours of charge time for cell phones, digital cameras, personal digital assistants and MP3 players.

Compact Power Systems makes two battery/charger products specifically for the iPod. Cellboost connects with the 30-pin iPod and iPod Mini for an additional 8 hours of playing time. The company's iRecharge product is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack that can give you an additional 12 hours of charge time for the standard iPod and as much as 40 hours of extra charge time for the iPod Shuffle.

See more CNET content tagged:
fuel cell, methanol, digital music player, cartridge, Toshiba


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Great idea
Where can I buy the bigger brothers for these baby fuel cells, for indepedent remote area field use of laptop computer/sat phone etc
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Direct Methane Full cell baterries: the futuro long lasting batteries for e
Viaspace, the holder of the global patents for the DMFC should be
congratulated for
the development of a battery that is both affordable and long
lasting. The Direct Methanol Battery Cell will become the standard
battery for celullar phones,laptops and electronics. Those who own
vspc.ob shares should hold and buy more stocks because the big
players in electronic manufacturing will be using their batteries
early 2008!
Posted by franklinlopez46 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Medis Technologies is the leader in this technology
Disclaimer - I own stock in Medis Technologies and plan to
continue accumulating it at its current price.

I have been following fuel cell technology from a technical
perspective for a number of years. About a year ago, I learned
what Medis was doing with regard to developing a proprietary,
non flammable fuel source and electrode technology that
eliminated the need for platinum.

Both of those developments have overcome hurdles that limit
the technology to small market niches. Flammable fuel cells
have no place in pockets, gym bags, or on air planes. Platinum is
a precious metal that costs more than gold - a new product
requiring platinum would drive the cost per unit mass even
higher because it would change the balance between supply and
demand even further in favor of the supplier.

After careful research into the specific advances that Medis has
made, I began accumultating stock in the company at about
$10.00 per share. It is now selling for approximately $17.00 per
share even though the company has not yet begun producing
more than pilot quantities of product. It is obviously a company
with a burn rate rather than a revenue stream, but their plans
are impressive and they keep doing exactly what they are telling
their customer and investors that they plan to do.

Check them out -

I particularly recommend that you go to the link titled "In the
News" and look for the link to a presentation that they made to
investors on 7 September 2005. If you like understanding
technology and how companies bring innovative products to
market, you will enjoy this presentation.

Rod Adams
Posted by Rod Adams (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Will people enjoy spooning alcohols into their new ipod?
When i was tiny the coolest toy i had was a battery powered train which could do real smoke.
However, the batteries didn't provide the smoke, you had to carefully funnel vegetable oil into the stack. Long story short, the batteries were much more practical than a funnel and oil and the smoke feature was completely useless.

The reason i bought an ipod was because it is rechargeable and didn't eat AAAs like my old one so the fuel cell technology puts me in a dilemma, plug my short lived ipod into a power supply, put a new 10ml fuel tank in it or squirt concentrated alchol at it and pray it's only going into the tank.
Posted by steviesteveo (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rechargeable or not ?
I'm glad they found something different then using regular cell battery, but, please, think about it, if it's not rechargable, it's still be more battery in the garbage and it's still be someting TOXIC. Toshiba, don't think about your pocket, think about the earth.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Green Electricity: GEL Initiative by Dr. Alexander Bell
Text of the Green Electricity (GEL) Initiative: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by 207796398873175208235380528963 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try Going Through Airport Security
Wait until the sniffers get a whiff of your fuel cell. Taking alcohol or other flammable substance on an airplane is against the law.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
actually youcan take booze on planes
I've havent flown inside the US , but I have flown in 21 other countries and I took alchohol from duty free in my hand luggage in almost all of them. No questions asked.
Posted by kuipersj (1 comment )
Link Flag
Green Electricity (GEL) Initiative, updated and revised
FYI: GEL (Green Electricity) Initiative introduced by Dr. Bell several years ago now found couple practical implementations: read the article published in the EDN Magazine:
Alexander Bell. Muscle power drives battery-free electronics (<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>)

or refer to the GEL Initiative dedicated web page at: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Alexander Bell (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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