Hope for the Fuel Cell Phone

Today, scientists working at the French equivalent of the Atomic Energy Commission said they have created a backup hydrogen fuel cell for powering cell phones. According to Agence France-Presse, the device is being developed by Bic, the French company more familiar as a maker of pens and lighters than mini fuel cells, and won’t appear until 2010. The article says the researchers have been working with European wireless chipmaker STMicroelectronics since 2005 on the project.

If the backup charger (to be used after the battery is drained) makes it to the market, it should have plenty of company. Samsung is developing a similar device for cell phones to hit the streets in 2010 as well. Motorola is working with a startup called Angstrom Power to develop a prototype hydrogen-powered phone. MTI Micro plans to start selling its products in 2009, including a backup power system and potentially a fuel cell embedded cell phone. And Medis Fuel Cells already makes disposable fuel-cell chargers for phones.

As consumers grow more and more mobile, these companies’ plans fit with the dream of having a power source that is truly free from the power cord. And as companies look to go greener, the goal is to develop a backup power source for consumer devices that can essentially run on water, and other non-toxic chemicals. Both were big topics this year at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show, but getting fuel cells to market will still need a lot of work. Still it’s good to know so many firms are trying.