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Fuel Cell Developer Claims Methanol Advance

The cell will be available next year for commercial mobile applications.

WASHINGTON — A fuel cell developer is claiming twice the power density of lithium batteries in a new methanol fuel cell for mobile gear.

UltraCell Corp. (Livermore, Calif.) said Tuesday (Aug. 23) its reformed methanol fuel cell scheme uses "micro reformer" technology developed under a military contract to generate hydrogen from a highly concentrated methanol solution used in fuel cells.

UltraCell said its portable power system achieves the power density of a hydrogen fuel cell while using cheap methanol fuel. The unit weighs 40 ounces, the company said.

The micro reformer technology was developed under a U.S. Army contract. An early system provided 45 watts of continuous power, UltraCell said.

The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center awarded UltraCell a contract to accelerate development of a more compact portable system running at 25 watts. The new power source is being developed for commercial use as the UltraCell25.

It will be available in 2006 for commercial mobile computing applications, according to UtraCell.

The company, founded in 2002, said it has an exclusive license with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories for micro fuel cell technology based on reforming methanol into hydrogen “reformate” using proprietary technology in the fuel reformer and hydrogen fuel cell stack.

The system uses a high temperature membrane assembly developed by German fuel cell maker Pemeas GmbH in its fuel cell stack, resulting in high tolerance to impurities.

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