When it comes to personal crises in my day-to-day life, few situations seem as dire as the impending “Power down” of my right arm (my smartphone) or when I’m traveling, my laptop. While computer companies and tech firms tackle problems in fields such as drone wars, autonomous cars and teeny, tiny computers that fit right into my pocket, my mind boggles at the notion that I am still filled with anxiety the second one of my devices hits the dreaded 15% mark. Battery power seems to be lagging behind when you consider how far we’ve come in so many areas, but one UK-based company thinks they may be able to put your mind at ease by taking your worries off the grid – the power grid, that is.
Intelligent Energy has been hard at work for several years developing an alternative to “the plug” by working with hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that has been harnessed and used to power some cars. These cells work by transforming the chemical energy freed during the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy, which can then be used to power an electronic device. While this reaction creates the byproducts of water and heat, no CO2 emissions are created as a result; making it more than just convenient, it’s an entirely environmentally friendly alternative. Currently they are testing the technology in Nigeria and the UK with a stand-alone fuel-cell pack called Upp, which users can plug their devices into for a quick recharge. But the end goal, according to the company, is to create smart devices with fuel cells actually integrated into the design. This could make your smartphone or laptop essentially self-charging, and would eliminate the need to carry around any pesky charging cords at all – all you’d need for back-up is a small cartridge of hydrogen-based fuel.
While I’m sure this is news to whiny, coffee shop hipsters’ ears (not having an available outlet at your fave café is such a bummer…), the technology could actually be life-changing to people in say, Africa, where simply having a reliable source of electricity can be considered a luxury. Once the fuel cells have been thoroughly tested, the company has even bigger plans in mind. Intelligent Energy CEO Henri Winand’s goal is to develop a technology once, then apply it in a multitude of different ways. In the case of hydrogen fuel cells, this could mean powering taxis or even a fleet of remote mobile towers in India; and of course, your newly untethered laptop. The company has yet to spill the beans on where the fuel cell technology will first appear, or in which device, or even when we can expect to see it commercially. They have said with some confidence, though, that we could see integrated fuel cell technology as early as 2016.
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