TOKYO A Tokyo-based company has proposed and demonstrated solid-state methanol fuel for direct methanol fuel cells at the FC (Fuel Cell) Expo 2007 here this week.
Kurita Water Industries Ltd., which specializes in water treatment, developed solid-state methanol making use of a clathrate compound technology fostered in its main water processing business. The company believes solid-state methanol could be a safer alternative to liquid methanol for use in fuel cells.
In a clathrate compound technology, a guest compound is trapped in a solid state host compound. In this case, methanol is the guest compound.
Liquid methanol is highly flammable and toxic when it leaks. Heavy duty cartridges must be used for carrying and storing liquid methanol, and its transport via aircraft is restricted.
"Methanol falls in the category of dangerous goods," said Minoru Yagi, chief engineer of new energy projects at Kurita. "Our main target is to make the methanol fuel not dangerous. Then we can expect the market will grow rapidly."
Kurita had made the first announcement of the solid-state methanol in October 2005. Initially the reaction required water. But this year's demonstration used no water. Placing dry, white granular solid bodies on the anode induced power generation.
The energy density of solid-state methanol is about half that of the same volume of liquid methanol at present, but does not require the same bulky cartridge. Considering that, the energy density is comparable to that of liquid, said a spokesman for Kurita.
Kurita is now sampling the solid methanol to mobile phone venders and expects the first products in a form of battery chargers will hit the market around this summer at the earliest.
The company's future ambition to house the solid methanol fuel cell in a compact card like an SD card, which will directly snap into mobile phones.