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Apple applies for patents on hydrogen fuel cell technology

updated 12:25 pm EDT, Thu October 20, 2011

Greener tech fo Apple portables?

Two newly-published Apple patent applications suggest an unexpected Apple interest in hydrogen fuel cells, AppleInsider notes. The first, Parallel fuel stack architecture, suggests a way of arranging cells into a stack. A common problem with stacks is said to be a tendency toward a single point of failure in a connected series. There can also be many kinds of vulnerabilities, such as degradation of the electrolyte, accumulation of nitrogen in the anode, and water flooding in the anode or cathode. The reliability of stacks can go down as the number of cells grows, Apple comments.

The company's answer involves connecting fuel cells in a parallel setup using a power bus, also implementing a voltage-multiplying circuit. In theory this could increase reliability, while also supporting higher voltages.

The other application is meant to deal with weight. Bipolar plates in fuel cells are said to normally be built with conductive and corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel. Steel is heavy however, and while Apple doesn't propose a different material, it does argue that lining up cells in a monopolar configuration could allow sharing electrodes. This would reduce the number needed, as well as allow the use of lighter and thinner monopolar plates. As a consequence, fuel cells could become not only lighter but smaller, cheaper and/or more powerful than a regular bipolar cell stack.

Each patent filing dates back to April 2010. Apple may be considering fuel cells for future portable devices, such as MacBooks and iPads. While the company has often shown interest in more environmentally-friendly sources of power, however, most of its patents have explored solar panels, which have yet to be built into any Apple hardware.





By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. garmonbosia

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2002

    +8

    Maybe

    the next big thing is an insanely great automobile.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +2

    Power for new headquarters?

    Maybe Apple will use this technology in their new "Mothership" headquarters building. Could give the Bloom Box a run for its money: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom_box

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -7

    or

    it may be yet another patent coming out of Apple that turns out to have no practical purpose and never goes anywhere. You know, like 3/4 of all patents that are sent in by companies.

  1. garmonbosia

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2002

    +5

    Re: or

    You're such a punchbowl pisser.

  1. facebook_Eric

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011

    -1

    Yep

    Somehow, GreenPeace will figure out a way to say this is bad.

  1. Makosuke

    Junior Member

    Joined: Aug 2001

    0

    Interesting

    My day job among other things involves some work on fuel cells, and these are a couple of very interesting design theories.

    The first of the two almost certainly has nothing to do with large fuel cell applications like buildings (which will be solid oxide or a similar high-temp type) or cars--it's for low-voltage applications like a laptop, and the fault tolerance would make it a very attractive technology (so your entire fuel-cell powered laptop doesn't die when one cell develops a pinpoint cross leak).

    Entirely possible--likely even--that they'll never ship a product with this technology, but you never know, and they're obviously spending the R&D on this kind of stuff just in case it ends up going somewhere.

    (And actually, that latter patent could be worth a fortune in licensing if FC vehicles go big time.)

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