Laptops, PDAs, and phones powered by hydrogen are not yet a commercial reality. However, micro fuel cells (MFCs) that can replace batteries in portable electronics are in development, reports ABI Research (Oyster Bay, NY, U.S.). According to the market research firm, the majority of companies leading the pack are Japanese.
Atakan Ozbek, ABI Research's director of energy research, says companies such as Hitachi, NEC, and Toshiba are among the companies leading way, along with other Japanese consumer electronics and battery manufacturers -- some of which intentionally maintain a lower profile.
Mr. Ozbek characterizes these companies as "nimble," capitalizing on their established position by making the very devices that first-generation commercial MFCs will power. "Once they focus on something, these companies can increase their development effort significantly, which our research is now confirming," he says.
"They know all there is to know about their own products' power demands," Mr. Ozbek adds. "They are showing rapid progress in making MFCs smaller and lighter, more powerful, and reliable -- critical not only for civilian use, but for the large and important military market."
The research firm does note that the Japanese do not have this field all to themselves. In the U.S., MTI Micro Fuel Cells, Inc., Medis Technologies Ltd., and a few other firms are also active.
Next year, ABI expects that the major Japanese firms will release limited numbers of MFC-powered portable devices to test populations. Later, high-end consumers will begin to adopt them, but mass-market acceptance will probably take until 2008 or later.
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