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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 22:24 GMT
Fuel cells to change laptop use
By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News website, in Hanover

Laptop with fuel cell
Antig fuel cells should be on sale by early 2007
Soon you could be running your laptop computer all day without a recharge as commercial versions of fuel cells go on sale.

At the Cebit technology fair in Hanover, Taiwanese hi-tech firm Antig said its fuel cells should be on the shelves of computer shops by early 2007.

The first versions of the methanol-using units should keep a laptop going for up to nine hours.

Fuel cell technology got a boost recently when international air flight regulators changed rules that banned passengers from carrying flammable methanol onto aircraft.

Linnet Tsai, deputy marketing manager for Antig, said the first fuel cells to go on sale would marry familiar lithium-ion batteries with the methanol-based technology.

Instead of storing power, fuel cells generate electricity by breaking down methanol via an electrochemical process.

The fuel cells can be recharged by topping them up with methanol from a cartridge.

These "hybrid" devices will work with existing laptops and will fit into the media bay - typically the location of the CD/DVD drive.

Laws changing

Ms Tsai said its manufacturing partner was currently evaluating the finished product - a process that could take up to six months.

Preparing sales channels and the delivery system so consumers find it easy to get hold of methanol cartridges will take a few more months.

The regulations are coming along, the product is coming along and the third part with the infrastructure for the cartridges is coming along too
Linnet Tsai, Antig
But she was hopeful that Antig fuel cells would be on sale by early 2007.

She added that international air travel laws would limit the attractiveness of fuel cells before that date.

"There used to be restrictions on passengers to take methanol on flights," said Ms Tsai.

But, she explained, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recently changed its guidelines to allow passengers to take methanol cartridges with them when they travel.

Ms Tsai said the change in regulations come into force in January 2007.

"The regulations are coming along, the product is coming along and the third part with the infrastructure for the cartridges is coming along, too," Ms Tsai added.

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