SAN JOSE, Calif. Despite a massive influx of research and development, micro fuel cells are not expected to hit the mainstream for several years, according to an executive at Toshiba Corp.
Regarding micro fuel-cell shipments into the mass markets, "I don't think that we will see much until the end of the decade," said Stephen Marlow, executive vice president for Toshiba's U.S. chip unit, Toshiba America Electronics Components Inc. (Irvine, Calif.)
A micro fuel cell is supposed to replace the battery in a notebook PC, mobile phone or other hand-held device. The fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts the chemical energy of fuel, such as hydrogen or methanol or some patented fuel, into electrical energy.
But the technology is taking longer-than-expected to hit the mass markets. Among the hurdles for fuel cells include environmental issues, infrastructure problems and others, Marlow said. Stanards are another issue in the arena.
Micro fuel cells are expected to constitute a $12 million market in 2006 and are predicted to reach $112 million in 2011, according to a new report by Innovative Research and Products (Stamford, Conn.).
In 2005, Toshiba announced that it has developed two prototype direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) units. A slew of other companies have also announced fuel cell products as well.
In what could be an interim solution, Toshiba is also working on -- and showing -- a so-called "power brick."
Resembling a universal power supply unit, the standalone "power brick" is based on DMFC technology. The ''power brick'' is a system that could support and power multiple peripherals, according to the Toshiba executive.