Apple shows continued interest in fuel cell-powered devices with weeklong battery life

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited September 2015
Apple has showed continued interest in using hydrogen fuel cell technology to power its portable devices, echoing a functional iPhone 6 powered by hydrogen that was showcased just last week.




Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, the application was originally submitted by Apple in March, and actually represents a continuation of two patents from 2010, one of which was previously spotted by AppleInsider. Text and diagrams depict not only a fuel cell stack for generating power, but related aspects like connections with the portable device and a cartridge system for adding fuel.

The diagrams make reference to a MagSafe connector, implying that technology would be oriented towards MacBooks, and claim that a device could run for "days or even weeks" without refueling.

Recently, however, British firm Intelligent Energy developed a prototype iPhone 6 pairing a fuel cell with a rechargeable battery. The company has reportedly been working closely with Apple, though neither party has been willing to comment on that claim.

Intelligent Energy's system would use an ultra-thin stack, and disposable cartridges containing enough fuel powder to run an iPhone for a week.

The likelihood of Apple putting fuel cell technology in a shipping product is uncertain, since cartridge slots would take up valuable design space, and many people might prefer to keep recharging via USB instead of paying for fuel. There also might also be outsized manufacturing and environmental costs in producing a supply of cartridges.

However, Thursday's patent continuation makes it clear that Apple remains interested in pursuing the concept, as the company strives to make more environmentally friendly products that also offer greater runtime between recharges.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,335member
    I agree that the cost of fuel would be a major deciding factor.
  • Reply 2 of 18
    IMHO this tech doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a phone. But think of the possibilities if it were used to power a different, somewhat larger mobile device - like a car!
  • Reply 3 of 18
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    melgross wrote: »
    I agree that the cost of fuel would be a major deciding factor.

    This is just a return to non-rechargeable batteries, now called fuel cells. I do not like the idea. It's completely impractical. This takes people from just charging their laptop/phone/watch at night to having to visit a store once a week like one would buy groceries just for a fuel cell replacement.

    It's also yet another environmental cost where the disposable fuel cells have to be replaced. If fuel cells replace D/C/AA/AAA batteries, that's fine. But they won't. Mainly because it would create further stress on the water supply in places that are already suffering (Eg California)
  • Reply 4 of 18
    Unless the cartridges are recyclable, I fail to see how this is environmentally friendly. Aren't we adding more rubbish to landfills?
  • Reply 5 of 18
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Misa View Post





    This is just a return to non-rechargeable batteries, now called fuel cells. I do not like the idea. It's completely impractical. This takes people from just charging their laptop/phone/watch at night to having to visit a store once a week like one would buy groceries just for a fuel cell replacement.



    It's also yet another environmental cost where the disposable fuel cells have to be replaced. If fuel cells replace D/C/AA/AAA batteries, that's fine. But they won't. Mainly because it would create further stress on the water supply in places that are already suffering (Eg California)


     

    Harvesting hydrogen doesn't have to be done from water. Indeed, commercially, it's far more common to be from natural gas. I do, however, agree that there are environmental costs.  I did not see what metallic powder they are using to store the hydrogen, though I am assuming it is a relative of the metal hydrides that were first proposed as a non-pressurized means of storing hydrogen.

  • Reply 6 of 18

    Hydrogen fuel cells are not environmentally friendly at all. Not for phones, not for laptops and not for cars or busses. (The only things that might benefit from hydrogen are airplanes and rockets.)

     

    The only reason I can see Apple do this is as an option for people who spend a lot of time in the middle of nowhere and don't have the ability to recharge daily, or for people who go on hikes for several days or something. And even in that case it's better and FAR more environmentally friendly to buy a small solar panel that you can carry on top of your backpack to recharge your phone, iPad, camera etc.

     

    I really, really, really hope Apple never uses fuel cells, not in their devices and not in the rumored Apple Car. It's ridiculous!

  • Reply 7 of 18
    This makes sense for a lot of military applications.
  • Reply 8 of 18
    Not a bad idea, but it looks like the market has moved in another direction%u2014accessory batteries with USB connectors. They're inexpensive and work with multiple devices. That may mean that, when these fuel cells reach the market, they'll do best as multi-purpose USB devices not built into phones, tablets or laptops.

    Personally, I'd only be interested if the fuel isn't exotic or the canister proprietary. I'd most like to see it powered by commercial alcohol. It's cheap, easily available, and relative to most other fuel sources, safe. In a pinch, you can every use vodka for power.
  • Reply 9 of 18
    Apple shows continued interest in fuel cell-powered devices with weeklong battery life

    I'm fully expecting certain people to see that headline and say something to the point, "You all said you didn't want longer battery life, you wanted the device to be thinner, and not you're happy Apple is working on weeklong battery life."
  • Reply 10 of 18
    longpath wrote: »
    Aren't we adding more rubbish to landfills?

    :???: Of course we are. All of use, no matter how "green" we think we are produce domestic waste. This has been happening since the first society and will continue to expand. It's an excellent way for archeologists to study ancient civilizations. They even have a term for it: midden.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    [@]boredumb[/@] wrote, "I believe the process is called, "fare to midden"…?"


    I've never heard that term for the process of sifting(?) or analyzing(?) through midden.

    This is all I could find…

    [LIST][*] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fair+to+middlin
    [/LIST]
  • Reply 12 of 18
    misa wrote: »
    This is just a return to non-rechargeable batteries, now called fuel cells. I do not like the idea. It's completely impractical. This takes people from just charging their laptop/phone/watch at night to having to visit a store once a week like one would buy groceries just for a fuel cell replacement.

    It's also yet another environmental cost where the disposable fuel cells have to be replaced. If fuel cells replace D/C/AA/AAA batteries, that's fine. But they won't. Mainly because it would create further stress on the water supply in places that are already suffering (Eg California)
    Well, you can probably can buy a 12 pack and last 3 months, but still be a nightmare for those who just buy when it runs out. On the bright side there would never be a need for an outlet with one of these(replaceable battery lovers).
  • Reply 13 of 18
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Curtis Hannah View Post





    Well, you can probably can buy a 12 pack and last 3 months, but still be a nightmare for those who just buy when it runs out. On the bright side there would never be a need for an outlet with one of these(replaceable battery lovers).

     

    They'd probably do hybrid battery/fuel cell, which would last 3-4 days instead of pure fuel cell phones.

    If screen and SOC tech decrease power usage enough, the battery portion of the phone would be efficient enough to last 12h even if the cell is half the size it is right now.

  • Reply 14 of 18
    foggyhill wrote: »
    They'd probably do hybrid battery/fuel cell, which would last 3-4 days instead of pure fuel cell phones.
    If screen and SOC tech decrease power usage enough, the battery portion of the phone would be efficient enough to last 12h even if the cell is half the size it is right now.

    Having more battery life is great (I'd it run forever without being charged), but how about splitting the difference so we can get, say, 60% longer usage and a much smaller battery than would be needed for 300-400% more usage, plus whatever extra power requirements we don't experience when we leave them plugged in whilst sleeping? Sure, they could (and would) reduce the weight and volume, but this would also allow more space for components over 300-400%+ or 700%+ battery.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    solipsismy wrote: »
    :???: Of course we are. All of use, no matter how "green" we think we are produce domestic waste. This has been happening since the first society and will continue to expand. It's an excellent way for archeologists to study ancient civilizations. They even have a term for it: midden.

    I'm not sure if this should be called midden, or something else, like shitten¡ Either way, it coincides with my previous post and I found it interesting so I thought I'd share.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    solipsismy wrote: »
    :???: Of course we are. All of use, no matter how "green" we think we are produce domestic waste. This has been happening since the first society and will continue to expand. It's an excellent way for archeologists to study ancient civilizations. They even have a term for it: midden.

    that we produce waste is a given. that doesn't negate the value in seeking ways to minimize waste production. what's so confusing about that?
  • Reply 17 of 18
    nolamacguy wrote: »
    that we produce waste is a given. that doesn't negate the value in seeking ways to minimize waste production. what's so confusing about that?

    I agree. I would say there isn't just a value in minimizing waste but also a necessity for the longevity of the human race as well as trillions upon trillions of dollars to be had by finding large-scale and longterm solutions. What's confusing is the simplistic sentence, "Aren't we adding more rubbish to landfills?". Yes, of course we are, but adding to a landfill doesn't mean something shouldn't be done. Additionally, just because something can be recycled doesn't mean it's therefore environmentally friendly to do so. Regardless, all this pales in comparison to the potential threat of our population outstripping resources and/or altering worldwide homeostases. For example a domino collapse of ecosystems.

    I've been trying to cut back on my caloric and meat consumption, but I will start eating all the burgers I can if I knew I'd soon be eating patties made from ground up insects. :D Seriously though, if it does come to that, it's not really a big deal. We find it gross because our culture didn't grow up with that, but it won't take too long before it's common place. I bet the first guy to drink cow's milk was considered a weirdo… especially if he did it like Tom Green by suckling the teat.
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