Why would I want this?
Toshiba has launched its first direct methanol fuel-cell (DMFC) product: Dynario, an external power source for “mobile digital consumer products”. Toshiba_Dynario_001 Toshiba's Dynario makes power from highly-concentrated methanol Once filled with an injection of methanol solution, Dynario is able to generate electricity …
So when my phone/device isn't attached, does it still generate electricity or is there some sort of "off" switch for the chemical process? Or does the device require a "load" (in the electronic sense) in order to activate?
I guess I'm not totally sure how fuel cells work exactly (other than something to do with Hydrogen atoms passing through a membrane and magic).
If the latter, two spare batteries would be much cheaper. When was the last time you had no access to the mains for two weeks, but still had a signal on your phone?
Fuel cells were proposed as a way to power laptops. (Laptops were the precursor to notebooks and could be used on your lap without overheating.) Methanol boils of 65⁰ and has a flash point of 79⁰C. Fuel cells for notebooks could be spectacular.
I've always believed fuel cells have a domestic future. But this isn't it. Bottles of methanol, injected into a $200+ unit? Over the cost and life of the unit, this has to be the most expensive way of recharging a cellphone ever invented!! And including its manufacture, disposal and refuelling, probably on a par environmentally with an open coal fire.
...until you think - hang on you've got to keep buying plastic refill bottle and someones got to generate the methanol from something.
Whats wrong with dynamo (wind-up) charger if you really are that far from a plug socket? Seriously, am I missing something here?
Although some of these comments are funny, I think methanol to power fuel cells has a future. Methanol is flammable and difficult to get onto a plane (although 50ml would fit into the little plastic bags and not be checked), but it isn't explosive per se (same as petrol) and used in a fuel cell has a good energy to weight ratio.
In answer to the comments above, it isn't a chemical reaction and so it doesn't 'carry-on' when not plugged in to anything and you can't substitute ethanol (which has much better uses anyway - hic). A few companies have trialled fuel cells for laptops and if you replace the battery with them, they run quite cool (no explosion issues). Used as suggested above, they don't get close to the (hot) batteries so the safety thing isn't too bad.
Right now, this is a gimmick with the only real application lightweight generation of low currents when separated from main electricity (the US Army is interested to replace batteries in field kit). On a larger scale, it beats the home Hydrogen generators that Honda are selling with their fuel cell cars. In addition Hydrogen is much more dangerous and heavier to transport.
The big question is the grade of methanol - someone pointed out how cheap the standard grade is to buy and if you can use that then we are not too far (just one order of magnitued) from a viable option. I thought the actual fuel cell used quite a dilute solution to generate Hydrogen for the actual reaction so perhaps the grade is only important from the point of view of reducing weight.
>>Toshiba claimed this enables Dynario to generate enough power to charge two mobile phones.
At 150x21x74mm, this thing is about 20 times the volume of a BL-5C (generic Nokia battery used across a fair portion of their phones) and at £191 is almost 50 times the price (£4 for a genuine nokia battery from a lot of outlets), AND needs the bulk + cost of fuel on top of it.
So, i'm kind of curious as to what the benefit of this product is if it's being marketed as an emergency phone charger. Instead of having this product you could simply carry 20 backup batteries for 20 "recharges" instead of 2, and save £110 in the process!
Guess it's okay if you have some form of crippled device that doesn't include a user-swappable battery (now where would we find one of those?), but hell, there're plenty of battery-based emergency phone chargers with charging adaptors for all major phones, that achieve far better energy density than this and cost far far less.
The future of fuel cells? Great! Right now? Hard to see why this thing ever made it past a concept model.
Mate - even as a tech-mad young lad - I DID berate the TV when it first came out as a 12" 405-line B&W single channel £100 (1000s in today's money) eyesore! I let the tech-mad nerds queue for them, and didn't buy one for 2 decades until I had multi-channels and affordable prices. I still don't have HD flat-screen, and won't be buying until I see something on those screens worth watching. 'Concept models' belong in labs, not our homes.
To be fair, it's probably earlier buyers who establish markets, eventually bring down prices. In which case, please be my guest...
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