Asked why Rohm got involved in fuel cells, Kamisawa talked of the Advanced Electronics Symposium founded in 2009 as an annual interdisciplinary event among Kyoto-based high-tech companies, start-ups, and academia. Rohm got interested when Aquafairy, a startup founded in Kyoto's Venture Plaza, presented its project at the forum.
A fuel cell's ability to provide "convenient" power where no sockets for AC power are available struck Rohm as an attractive value proposition.
Rohm, together with Aquafairy and Kyoto Univ., developed solid fuel-type hydrogen fuel cells to recharge smartphones and other portable devices. They claim their cells are "smaller, lighter, and more efficient compared to dry cells, lithium-ion cells and direct methanol fuel cells." They said their fuel cells have the advantage of being ecologically friendly, because this series of hydrogen fuel cells uses a solid that creates hydrogen by adding water, thus generating power through hydro-synthesis. The result is power "with no harmful by-products such as carbon dioxide or volatile organic compounds," according to Rohm. These fuel cells can be disposed of as general waste.
Rohm's mobile fuel cells can light up LED lights in emergency.
More specifically, both Aquafairy and Rohm, by leveraging proprietary technologies, succeeded in solidifying calcium hydride in a sheet configuration, a distinct departure from using calcium hydride in a powder form. The team claims they can now generate about 4.5 liters of hydrogen from a sheet less than 3cc in volume – the thickness of a stick of chewing gum -- to provide a power output of 5Whr.
Rohm's hydrogen generating sheet. Less than 3cc fuel sheet can charge a regular (5Whr) Smartphone.
Unlike dry and lithium-ion cells whose producible electricity declines over time, Rohm's new series of hydrogen fuel cells, which uses laminated aluminum to prevent degradation, can be stored for as long as 20 years without losing energy, the company claimed.
Rohm's particular contribution to fuel-cell technology includes the company's IP used in control circuits. Rohm was able to control the amount of hydrogen and regulate chemical reactions without using actuator, pump, or motor, said Kamisawa.