April 16, 2007 2:55 PM PDT

Microsoft in deal for fuel cells

Related Stories

Big tests for fuel cells coming in 2007

July 18, 2006

A fuel cell to gas up your MP3 player

September 16, 2005
Someday soon, there could be a gas-powered music player.

Medis Technologies has started shipping its 24-7 fuel cells for portable devices. The first customer is Microsoft, according to Medis.

The fuel cells from Medis create electricity by putting liquid methanol in contact with oxygen and a membrane. Catalysts inside the membrane, usually platinum, then strip an electron from the methanol. The electron gets used to power a portable device. Byproducts include water and carbon dioxide.

Toshiba, Samsung, MIT Micro Fuel Cells and PolyFuel also have all been working to bring fuel cells for portable electronics to market. Liquid fuel is fairly efficient, and a filled fuel cell can keep devices running, manufacturers say, for a longer time than a single battery charge. (Methanol fuel cells were also used in curling irons in the '90s). Many times, however, manufacturers have delayed the release of their fuel cells because of performance issues and skepticism among consumers.

Refilling fuel cells has also been an issue. Most manufacturers say they plan to sell cartridges at stores filled with methanol that can be inserted into the fuel cell, sort of like putting an ink cartridge into a fountain pen. Terrorism doesn't help either. The FAA earlier approved bringing some types of methanol fuel cells on planes, but that was before the ban on liquids in the cabin.

Although fuel cells can substitute for batteries, most manufacturers say they plan to use fuel cells to supplement batteries inside consumer electronic devices.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the company made "a small" purchase from Medis.

"This is an historic moment for our company," Robert K. Lifton, CEO of Medis, said in a prepared statement. "It marks the first commercial sales of our 24-7 Power Pack product and indeed, the first commercial sales in quantities of any consumer fuel cell product. We are pleased to be able to serve Microsoft as our first customer."

See more CNET content tagged:
fuel cell, methanol, portable device, battery, Microsoft Corp.


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Microsoft needs something to keep returning investments to shareholders
this might do it if they can get a lock on the fuel cell market very early. It seems that Microsoft can move fast and the fuel cell market can give them a big profit.

My only concern is that they use platinum in the fuel cells. That would cause the price to rise. Much like when personal computers had gold contacts, and were expensive until they switched to copper contacts. Perhaps there is some other metal that can provide electronics like platinum, but without the high cost?

Again it would be nice if fuel cells were reasonably priced so that even the poor and disadvantaged could afford to buy them. I am sad to see Microsoft jump on the alternative energy bandwagon powered by the global warming scare, and as a result sell high priced alternative energy sources and profit from the global warming scare in that way. Microsoft is not the only company to do that, and they won't be the last either.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Still Gold
The card edge connectors in ALL computers are gold plated. It is the only conductive metal that will not corrode. The reason computers have gotten cheaper is because the technology for creating ICs has gotten better and there are more computers being made.
Posted by willdryden (271 comments )
Link Flag
Hey microsoft
You can't even do Windows right. What makes me think this will
work out. Patches needed to make batteries work. It will probably
be a "plug in".
Posted by twotall610 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They can't "even" make one of the most complex products in the world with hundreds of millions of "parts" to work "right" (according to you) so they shouldn't be able to build a battery?
Posted by herby67 (144 comments )
Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.