Fuel cell maker Angstrom Power and cell phone maker Motorola have teamed up to create a prototype mobile phone that runs on a hydrogen fuel cell. Hydrogen is produced–by cracking water molecules–with a desktop fueling station and then inserted into a metal hydride storage container on the phone, says Aron Levitz, manager of business development for Angstrom. When the hydrogen molecules pass through a membrane in the fuel cell, electrons are stripped away and get diverted to run the phone.
The two companies are trotting the phone to various trade shows. Start-up Angstrom has received investments from of Chrysalix Ventures.
A number of companies have been working on miniature fuel cells for portable electronics for a while, but nearly all of them run on methanol. Toshiba, for instance, last year at the Ceatec electronics show in Japan showed off a methanol fuel-cell powered portable TV. Using hydrogen has its advantages and disadvantages. For one thing, you have to harvest the hydrogen yourself. With methanol fuel cells, you just pour in the methanol.
But on the other hand, with a hydrogen fuel cell, you never have to go to the store to get fuel feedstock. You get it out of the faucet. Basically, you can think of it as a water-powered phone.
The water-to-hydrogen generator can also be powered by solar panels, making the phone about as green as you can get. Horizon Fuel Cell’s H2 racer, a toy hydrogen car, runs on solar-generated hydrogen. It’s also good to see more experimentation in storing hydrogen in a solid metal tank, rather than a compressed tank. Trulite is doing something similar with its portable generator. Hydrogen proponents point out that, although the hydrogen highway may not get built, the small molecule can be used to provide power to boats, fork lifts, and electronics.
And for those of you worried about blowing up, remember, hydrogen didn’t burn the Hindenburg. It was the paint that caused it to go up in flames.