Big Tests for Fuel Cells In 2007

Big tests for fuel cells coming in 2007.

Next year fuel cells could take a significant step forward, according to a CEO of one of the leading manufacturers of the technology.

In 2007, the U.S. military will conduct field tests of hybrid power systems, which combine lithium ion batteries and methanol fuel cells, Peng Lim, CEO of MTI Micro Fuel Cells, said during an interview here Tuesday. The hybrid power systems will be squeezed into portable radar and other devices and will be tried out in remote sensors that pick up vibrations, sounds or movement in the field and radio the data back to headquarters.

In hybrid systems, the small lithium ion battery provides peak power while the fuel cell recharges the battery or runs the equipment when less power is required to run it. Fuel cells harvest the energy from chemical reactions and then provide that energy (in the form of electrons) to devices.

“Fuel cells will be there to refill your tank, and your tank will be lithium ion batteries,” Lim said. “We will complement lithium ion. Over the next 10 years we could be a replacement.”

MTI plans to deliver a round of fuel cell prototypes to Samsung at the end of the year to power cell phones and a second round of prototypes in the spring of 2007, he said. If all goes well, Samsung could potentially incorporate fuel cells into products. Generally, a product can go from prototype to shelves in around 18 months.

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