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Portable Fuel Cells

Photo of portable fuel cellFuel cells can be used to power a variety of portable devices, from handheld electronics such as cell phones and radios to larger equipment such as portable generators. Other potential applications include laptop computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and handheld video cameras-almost any application that has traditionally used batteries. These fuel cells have the potential to last more than three times as long as batteries between refueling. In addition to these smaller applications, fuel cells can be used in portable generators, such as those used to provide electricity for portable equipment.

It is estimated that about 1,700 portable fuel cell systems have been developed and operated worldwide, ranging from 1 watt to 1.5 kilowatts in power. The two primary technologies for portable applications are polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) and direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) designs. Most portable, fuel-cell-powered products are still in the development and demonstration stages. However, a handful of devices, such as portable power generators, are available commercially on a very limited basis.