The need to regularly recharge batteries in mobile phones, laptops and other portable terminals may be eliminated in the future, according to the latest developments by STMicroelectronics (ST). ST, which has long been one of the major suppliers of the silicon chips used in mobile phones, has reported progress by one of its advanced R&D teams in developing tiny fuel cells, small enough to fit inside a mobile handset, that could generate all the electrical energy needed to power the phone from cheap and easily available organic fuels.
A fuel cell is a device that generates energy using electrochemical reactions instead of fuel combustion. In recent years, there has been enormous interest in fuel cells because they promise to deliver cheap, clean energy. Although much of the work in the emerging field of fuel cell technology has been aimed at automotive applications, ST researchers also have been investigating the replacement of the rechargeable batteries used in mobile phones by tiny fuel cells that can be refilled with fuel whenever needed, just like refillable cigarette lighters.
"Using fuel cells instead of batteries would make mobile phones lighter and much more convenient to use as they could be simply topped up with fuel whenever necessary. In addition, there would be significant environmental benefits as the fuel can be derived from sustainable organic sources, while the byproducts are mainly water and a much lower level of carbon dioxide than is produced by burning fossil fuels," says Dr. Salvo Coffa, who leads the corporate technology R&D team that is researching the micro fuel cell technology.
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