Apple working with Intelligent Energy on fuel cell technology for mobile devices, sources say

“Fuel cell firm Intelligent Energy is working with Apple on a secret partnership that could propel the recently-floated British technology champion into the big leagues,” Rob Davies reports for The Daily Mail.

“Senior sources in the US told the Mail that the two firms hope to embed fuel cells in electronic devices such as laptops and mobiles within a few years,” Davies reports. “Fuel cells convert chemical energy from fuel into electricity in a way that is green and highly efficient. The technology could be rolled out in devices such as laptops and iPads, allowing them to run without being charged for days or even weeks.”

“A source, who has knowledge of the partnership, confirmed that Apple is the big name working with the Loughborough-based firm,” Davies reports. “A partnership between Apple and Intelligent Energy has been rumoured for some time in the US, after documents were leaked showing the US firm’s blueprint for using fuel cells.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

Related article:
Apple patent app details highly-advanced hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices – October 20, 2011

15 Comments

  1. > Fuel cell firm Intelligent Energy is working with Apple on a secret partnership…

    “Secret”? Probably “was” working with Apple, until this unfortunate self-serving “leak.” 😉

    > hope to embed fuel cells in electronic devices such as laptops and mobiles within a few years

    If that means two or there years, that is doubtful. Fuel cells require hydrogen. It will take more than “a few years” (if ever) for it to become more practical (in a small device) than simply recharging a conventional battery. More likely that, in the interim, there will be advancements in the storage of electrical power (a better battery), rather than the generation of electrical power within a small device.

    1. Fuel cells in small devices may be a few years off. However, Apple is working with and developing fuel cells for use at their billion dollar (plus) server farms already. When Apple finally develops or acquires the key to the next generation batteries, they will put them in those ever more energy efficient devices.

      So, they use then now while still to large and as they develop the next big even more energy efficient things, they will use them later too.

      1. The whole concept of putting the generation of power, rather than the storage of power (a battery), in a small device is questionable to me.

        Standard cars generate power internally (an engine), but even cars are beginning to simply store power generated elsewhere in a battery, with no internal power generation. Do fuel cell cars even makes sense, as a mass-market option?

        What does make sense, is to use fuel cells as a way to store power generated locally from solar and wind. The main problem with solar and wind power is that they are not “on demand.” It works when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, but on a calm evening, nothing. No matter how big you make the solar or wind “farms,” it will NEVER suffice as the primary power source because you can’t “dial it up.”

        However, on a smaller scale, like providing power for Apple’s data center, fuel cells can become a viable way to store power. Solar (and wind) can provide power when available and use excess energy to run a machine that turns water into hydrogen fuel and store it locally. When solar and wind are not (or less) available, use that stored up hydrogen in fuel cells to provide power. The “grid” becomes the source of last resort.

        1. To refute possible futures as nonsense has many a futurist eating crow. To make a smaller fuel cell to fit in a portable device can surely be done at some future date.

          At the same time to ridicule carmakers like BMW and Daimler is at least premature. The only problem they found so far is the safe provision of liquid hydrogen to service stations.

          1. That’s nonsense… 🙂 There are MANY “possible futures” that will NEVER come true. You are just cherry-picking cases when someone (a “futurist”) famously said something would not happen, and it did happen. Therefore, you conclude that any negative prediction will result in the “eating of crow” at some point in some undefined future.

            Perhaps it’s technically possible to make a fuel cell that is small enough to fit an iPhone. That’s not really my point. The point is, would anyone WANT TO do it in a viable consumer product, that customers would WANT TO buy… A car powered by a nuclear reactor is probably possible today.

            Fuel cell cars exist right now. I merely ASKED if it “makes sense.” Are they ever going to be commercially viable (convenient and cost-effective), compared to alternatives, for personal day-to-day use?

            I gave an example where using fuels cells make TOTAL sense. Another would be as a non-polluting low-noise electrical generator (instead of a noisy smelly gas-powered Honda generator). Use one INSIDE your house, in case the power goes out; a “UPS” for your home. Or stick an ultra-portable version in your backpack and take it camping to charge your iPad “in the field.”

            1. If I could buy an iPhone with a fuel cell and it would run a week at a time between refueling, that would be great.

              It’s a matter of price, size and safety.

            2. And, if you could buy an iPhone that had a battery and energy efficiency that would allow it to run a week between charges, that would be great too. And probably MUCH less expensive, smaller, and safer…

              > It’s a matter of price, size and safety.

              OF COURSE IT IS… The question is NOT of feasibility, but of practicality. Something that is technically possible is not always pursued as a commercial product, because there are better alternatives. A Mac that gets power from a tiny gasoline-powered motor – possible but impractical. A car that gets power from a large gasoline-powered motor – possible and practical (until oil gets to expensive).

            3. More cherry-picking… Bill Gates said something stupid (big surprise), therefore EVERY prediction ever made that something will not happen will eventually be wrong? “Think” about it…

  2. I’m at the point where I feel Apple can do just about anything it sets its mind to do. With a nearly unlimited amount of cash and loyal consumers ready to buy Apple products, there really doesn’t seem to be anything out of reach. When you think about it, NASA’s current budget is around $17 billion a year. Apple can take $17 billion and sink into just about any technology project they want to. Honestly, what would be stopping them as long as the cash flows. Apple could practically become untouchable with the proper type of R&D focused on a specific need.

    Actually, the total amount of R&D that’s gone into fuel cells by various agencies and companies over a relatively long period of time only runs into the low billions. The cash wouldn’t prove a stumbling block for Apple. No company of Apple’s wealth has ever tried to tackle a compact fuel cell the size that would fit in a handheld device. There are about four different types of fuel cells and they all have their various problems. Apple is getting heavily into being green and a fuel cell would seem like a project Apple really should attempt to tackle because the payoff would be huge. One of those “it’ll change everything” type of breakthroughs. I’d sure like to see Apple go after something like that.

  3. Some thoughts on fuel cells:

    – It is already possible to use a fuel cell to generate electricity you can apply to a computer if you wish to. Presumably it would charge your battery or act as a supplement when the battery is about to drop dead.

    – They’re a PITA to ‘recharge’ again, which means to refuel them. I expect this would change with time where you pull out an old fuel container, pop in another and move on. You take discharged fuel containers to some locality and trade them for charged. If this is sounding like its still annoying, I agree. This is the sort of stuff you might find useful if you’re taking computer equipment up Mount Everest, etc.

    – The material in a fuel cell has to be generated from another fuel source. I’ve had certain MegaTechGeeks freak out when I make this clear to them, but tough: You MUST use a non-carbon source fuel to generate the fuel for your fuel cell or the environmental gain is actually LESS than zero. That makes the entire exercise pointless and actually stupid.

    Where does the hydrogen for a fuel cell come from? ‘WATER!’ shouts the crowd. And where does the energy to crack the water come from? “I DON’T KNOW!” shouts the crowd. If you don’t know, if you think electricity out of the wall might be generated from carbon fuel, then what’s the point of cracking the water? You’d be far more efficient using the wall electricity, using less carbon than if you used a fuel cell.

    The ideal path:
    1) NON-carbon source fuel
    2) Applied to water to make hydrogen
    3) Fuel your fuel cell with the carbon-clean hydrogen.

    Tada!

    And of course that is what Apple is doing with THEIR fuel cells. They have solar farms, they capture that solar energy by cracking water, making hydrogen, storing it in fuel cells. Hurrah. This same fuel cell storage can be applied to wind turbines and hydro-electric turbines, wave action turbines, etc.

    To some people, all of the above is ‘DUH-Tech’ by now. But I rarely meet a non-geek who has a clue where fuel cells get their energy.

  4. Apple could be working on the direct methanol fuel cell that Toshiba tried but failed to commercialise back in 2008. So, instead of plugging in, you add a few mL of methanol-water mix to your phone and it runs for a day or two (or a week) before needing a recharge. As far as I can see the science and technology already exist but need improvement and a rethink on design and practical implementation; something possibly only Apple could pull off.

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