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Friday, October 28, 2005

Canon Makes Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Canon has announced that it has developed prototype hydrogen fuel cells, to power portable electronics products such as digital still cameras.

With this move, Canon has joined companies like Toshiba, NEC and Hitachi that are working on the development and commercialization of fuel-cell batteries.

Fuel-cell technology, which mixes hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, is considered a promising replacement for today's re-chargeable lithium-ion batteries. Fuel cells are geared to provide more power than a comparable sized battery; they can be re-charged instantaneously; and are said to be more environmentally friendly.

While most of the existing development of tiny fuel cells is based on devices that derive hydrogen from methanol, Canon is working on a system that supplies hydrogen directly from a re-fillable cartridg.

In this, Canon stands to gain, since fuel cells that extract hydrogen from methanol emit some carbon dioxide as a by-product, while fuel cells that use only hydrogen, do not.

Canon has developed 3 prototypes so far. One is relatively large and will mostly be used in a compact printer; the second is ideal for a digital camera; while the smallest is about 3 x 4 cm, and is likely to be used in tinier mobile devices. The company is un-decided about how to sell its new product, but is likely to re-fill hydrogen cartridges at company outlets.

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