Power breakthrough for mobile devices?

I’ve seen a reference to UltraCell which has announced a new product which is essentially a small portable fuel cell capable of providing 25 Watts of power using hot-swappable methanol canisters. It looks as though they’ve got a military joint project for the development of portable power systems. From reading the product brochures for the ultracell25 and ultracellxx90 (which provides 45 watts of output) it looks fairly promising.

I’m interested to see how much these units are and how much (where?) the canisters can be had to refuel. Fuel cells are a different approach than battery power, as they produce a certain amount of power as the fuel is consumed. They seem to have improved on small power cell technology with a reforming device. I don’t know much at this point about fuel cell technology I must admit, but it does look like their process may simplify the structure of the fuel cell device. They’ve managed to increase the energy density as well.

The product should be available in 2006 and is about the size of a book and weighs in at 40 ounces.

Given that the power source is the design limitaton for most portable electronics I’m wondering if this will help make things a bit more interesting. Frankly, I think one thing about the current battery/power options is that it makes the engineers design things with minimal power consumption in mind. An example is when computer memory was very pricey, most applications were designed to be stingy with memory, now that it’s plentiful there’s a lot of bloated application design. I don’t know that this will make for a case where power could be considered “plentiful”, but it will be interesting to watch.

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