MTI MicroFuel Reinvents the Battery

MTI MicroFuel Cells, a developer of miniaturized fuel cells for handheld electronics, today introduced a technology based on direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology.

According to the company, the new technology, called Mobion, represents several scientific breakthroughs that the company believes will ultimately enable it to power portable devices two to 10 times longer than an equivalently sized battery pack, while allowing for instant, cord-free recharging.

“Mobion is a true breakthrough in advanced micro fuel cell technology, and is the enabling technology powering our first product shipment planned for the industrial market later this year,” said William Acker, CEO and president of MTI MicroFuel Cells.

MTI demonstrated the Mobion technology in two concept models, a handheld entertainment system and a smartphone.

Advances in Fuel Cell Materials

“Recent advances in fuel cell materials science and technology have spurred hydrogen fuel cell development for automotive applications to address long-term energy needs, whereas exciting breakthroughs have spurred portable fuel cell development using methanol fuel for much nearer term needs,” said Sara Bradford, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

“MTI Micro has combined its significant DMFC technology advances with the commercial heritage of its 42 year-old parent company MTI to launch Mobion — the first micro fuel cell technology designed for the performance, manufacturability and cost profile necessary to make a significant impact on the military and commercial portable electronics markets.”

Cord-Free Rechargeable Technology

According to the company, Mobion is the culmination of work protected by a combination of more than 50 patents. At the core of Mobion technology is its approach to managing the water produced at the fuel-cell cathode and required for the chemical reaction at the fuel cell anode.

Traditional DMFCs rely on complex water management “microplumbing” around the cell, whereby water that is produced at the cathode is collected, rerouted and mixed with incoming methanol at the anode.

The Mobion technology architecture uses a proprietary approach that manages the water flow internal to the fuel cell with no pumping required. By eliminating the need for water management microplumbing, Mobion technology can result in several key advantages for OEM system designers.

Markets Addressed

MTI MicroFuel plans to target three primary markets — industrial, military and consumer electronics — through a phased-entry approach. The company plans its first shipment of Mobion power packs to the industrial market for use in retail, distribution and warehousing applications (such as RFID tag readers) where the shorter runtime and recharge maintenance of traditional batteries can reduce worker productivity.

MTI Micro also has begun pursuit of the military market. The company has begun testing with government organizations and defense equipment suppliers and believes it will be able to capitalize on those relationships by supplying high-capacity fuel cells for future military applications.

Finally, MTI Micro plans to pursue the broader consumer market with partners such as Gillette and Duracell. Target applications will include handheld communication devices, PDAs and other power-hungry portable electronic devices that can benefit from the technology’s extended runtime, cord-free rechargeable power packs.

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