In the not-so-distant future your Apple laptop, as well as other portable devices, may be powered by a fuel cell rather than, a lithium ion battery. Next weeks’ “Fuel Cell Dynamics 2002: Reality, Not Hype” seminar will look at the realities of the fuel cell industry.
Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that efficiently convert a fuel’s chemical energy directly to electrical energy. With no internal moving parts, fuel cells operate similar to dry cell batteries, save for the continuous production of electricity as long as fresh fuel, normally hydrogen, is supplied. Fuel cells chemically combine a fuel and oxidant without burning, thereby dispensing with the inefficiencies and pollution of traditional combustion systems, according to the
National Fuel Cell Research Center.
“Fuel Cell Dynamics” will take place in New York City’s Marriott Marquis Feb. 6-7. It will feature speakers from a wide range of stakeholders in the fuel cell industry. The conference is being managed by Allied Business Intelligence (ABI) a research think-tank known for its analyses of the fuel cell industry. SiemensWestinghouse, Fuel Cell Energy, H Power, Hydrogenics, Merrill Lynch, Medis Technologies, Aluminum Power and The US Department of Energy are some of the organizations that will share their business plans and views with attendees.
There are many different kinds of fuel cells. Batteries that power consumer electronic products such as laptops and cell phones could be replaced by miniature fuel cells. In battery-replacement applications, the fuel cell products would produce direct current electricity in much the same manner as conventional batteries, according to the National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC).
Small fuel cells could conceivably be used to power telecommunications satellites, replacing or augmenting solar panels. Micro-machined fuel cells could provide power to computer chips.
And there are even bigger possibilities. Fuel cells could potentially be used to produce electricity for homes, businesses and industries through stationary power plants ranging in size from 100 watts (enough to power a light bulb) to several megawatts (enough to power about 1,000 homes), the NFCRC says. Heck, they could even replace the internal combustion engine in cars. As early as 2004, fuel cell engines could be implemented in more than 100,000 automobiles sold around the world, the NFCRC says. All of the major automobile manufacturers and several other companies are developing prototype fuel cell vehicles to investigate this possibility, the organization claims.
ABI expects to see more than 1.5 million fuel cell vehicles by 2011, 200 million portable fuel cell units (most of them for high-end wireless devices) by 2008, and over 15,000 MW (megawatts) of stationary fuel cell electricity generation capacity by 2011.