Apple has submitted a patent request to the US Patent and Trademark Office that aim to replace lithium batteries in handheld computers with hydrogen fuel cells.
Until now we’ve only thought of hydrogen fuel cells in cars, but there is no reason why they couldn’t work in any device. The replacement cells would in fact be smaller and provide power for days or weeks! Microprocessor manufacturers like ARM are constantly battling to not only create faster chips, but also ones which use less power. A better power source could potentially allow them to drastically increase the speed of mobile devices.
Apple justifies the new technology saying that the United States is required to maintain relationships with corrupt governments which supply the chemicals in lithium batteries. They’ve obviously also sparked by the recent oil spill of which an oil rig, subcontracted by BP, caused massive damage to the US coastline.
According to two published Apple patent applications, called "Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device" and "Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device," Apple is looking to build lighter and smaller mobile devices like MacBooks (Air, Pro) by replacing current batteries with a fuel cell system.
This may not come as a surprise to many, since Apple has filed other patent applications for lighter hydrogen fuel cells. Those patents, which were brought to light this past October, described a building process where multiple fuel cells are connected by a power bus in a parallel pattern, and a voltage-multiplying circuit is added for additional voltage to the stack.
Now, Apple hopes to utilize these lighter, more efficient fuel cells in its mobile products in an effort to promote renewable energy sources and offer devices with the ability to run for days or even weeks without refueling, according to the patent applications. The devices will also be lighter and less bulky due to the lack of traditional batteries.
The first patent application, "Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device," states Apple's case for wanting to use fuel cell technology in their devices. While current fuel cell technology for mobile products requires the user to carry a fuel cartridge for recharging purposes, Apple wants to integrate fuel cells right into their electronics.
The second patent application, "Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device," describes how the fuel cell system would work with a rechargeable battery where one would power the other when necessary, and vice versa.
"This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight, and cost of the fuel system," said the second patent application. "This fuel system includes a fuel stack cell which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system."
One challenge will be creating a hydrogen fuel cell system that is cost-effective, according to Apple.