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Canon's Fuel Cell May Drive Portable Gear 197

Posted by samzenpus
from the green-laptop dept.
RX8 writes "Canon, Inc., has taken the wraps off prototype rechargeable hydrogen fuel cells, the likes of which may one day power digital cameras, media players, and printers. Canon's demonstrated fuel cells win even more points on the environmental front: while companies such as Toshiba, Sanyo, and NEC have also been working on fuel cells (and had been expected to have developed fuel cell-driven notebook computers by now), those efforts are based on DMFC technology which derives hydrogen from methanol, producing small amounts of carbon dioxide (itself a greenhouse gas) in the process. Canon's cells obtain hydrogen from a refillable cartridge with no toxic byproducts."
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Canon's Fuel Cell May Drive Portable Gear

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  • Mystery Cartridge! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cruithne (658153) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:38AM (#13887277)
    I love the extremely scientific description of the mystery cartridge that has no toxic byproducts.. especially after taking half of the article to describe how the competition is less "green" in great detail!
  • so where (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fredistheking (464407) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:39AM (#13887279)
    so where do they get the electricity to refine the hydrogen?
    • by Travoltus (110240) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:51AM (#13887315) Journal
      but in the future, as a hydrogen infrastructure matures, the electricity will come from some hydrogen based generator.
      • by weighn (578357) <weighn@@@gmail...com> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:07AM (#13887354) Homepage
        Most fuel cells technology derives hydrogen from methanol fuel. Canon's prototype uses hydrogen as the fuel. The coolness about these things will be more power from a cell the size of a standard battery and you will recharge them in a few seconds.

        It can be hard to hear over the clipped-signal of the marketing hype - but I think the jury is still out on the "environmentally friendly" claims.

        • Most hydrogen generated today comes from steam reformed methane (natural gas). Not much difference, since most methanol is created from natural gas too.

          Sure, you can use hydrolysis, but you can also charge a LiPo or other type of battery.
        • by Muhammar (659468) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:41AM (#13888143)
          "technology which derives hydrogen from methanol, producing small amounts of carbon dioxide"

          The methanol fuel cell produces the same amount of CO2 (or more, per volume unit) as if it was burning normal gasoline. The beauty of fuel cell here shines in comparison with (lousy) energy density, efficiency and recharge rate of a battery.

          One day we may be driving metanol-fueled cars or planes since methanol is pretty easy to make from coal. When that happens, the platinum-group metals used in fuel cells will not be cheaper than today - new industry uses of paladium and platinum are found every day but there is only very little to go around. Shortage of rhodium, palladium and platinum can be technologicaly much bigger problem than lack of fossil fuels. So my guess is that the new methanol motor will have some kind of good old internal combustion engine in it again.
          • new industry uses of paladium and platinum are found every day but there is only very little to go around.

            That's because Microsoft's hogging all the palladium for its Next Generation Secure Computing Base [microsoft.com] ;-)

          • Coal is the dirtiest fuel around. It contains significant quantities of nuclear materials. I'm sure making methanol from it is cleaner than burning it, but you still have the problem that you're releasing CO2 that has been in the ground for however long (thousands to millions of years) while using biofuel doesn't release any new CO2 into the atmosphere since you're taking it OUT of the atmosphere in the process of growing the crop. Ultimately I think we'll be seeing more biofuel, because it's getting cheape
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          "you will recharge them in a few seconds."
          Well you are not really recharging them you are refilling them like the gas tank in your car or the Propane tank that your grill uses. My question is just how useful this will be. Where will I get these magic cartridges and how much will they cost? It only takes a few cents of electric to recharge my notebook and I can find a plug pretty much anywhere. What about on airplanes? Can I carry these cartridges on a plane? Seems like a very expensive replacement for batte
    • Re:so where (Score:4, Funny)

      by benjamindees (441808) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:17AM (#13887379) Homepage
      Christ, no one cares. Can we please stop bringing this up on every hydrogen story?

      Where do you get the dinosaurs to make your oil/coal? That's just about how stupid your question is.

      I plan on getting hydrogen from windmills in my backyard. I plan on getting the copper for the windmills from a mine in Mexico. I plan on getting the magnets for the windmills from China. I plan for the water for the hydrogen to fall from the sky periodically.

      You can get yours out of the little plugs in your wall for all I care.
      • Re:so where (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Coal/Oil is made from dinosaurs?!
        Coal/Oil is dinosaurs!
        Our fuel is made out of dinosaurs! Next thing they'll be breeding them like cattle for food. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!
      • I don't think it would be possible for you to miss the point of the parent post more than you have here.

    • Re:so where (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:57AM (#13887468)
      Theoretically, they could get it from nuclear power or from wind power, which is beginning to mature. A machine that runs on gas can only run on gas. A machine that runs on electricity can effectively run on coal, wind, nuclear, or any number of sources produced in a central location and sold across the grid in a market based fashion that helps keep the cost down.

      So anything that helps products run on electricity more effectively is a good thing. Of course, Canon's stuff wasn't running on gasoline to begin with

      I haven't been able to access TFA though.
      • Re:so where (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot&nexusuk,org> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:13AM (#13887505) Homepage
        Theoretically, they could get it from nuclear power or from wind power

        Infact, wind power should be better suited to hydrogen generation than generation of grid electricity. Generating electricity for the grid has problems since wind is unpredictable so you can't have your wind farms match the current demand on the grid. For hydrogen generation this doesn't matter since you can just adjust the amount of hydrogen you generate depending on how much electricity your wind farm is generating and then _store_ the excess hydrogen, which you can then use during the periods when you don't have enough wind to meet demand directly. Storing hydrogen is much less of a problem than storing electricity.

        Maybe this is what the future holds for us - use predictable power generation systems (fisson, hydro, tide, fusion and orbital solar arrays) for electricity generation and less predictable (e.g. wind) for hydrogen generation, where the hydrogen can be used in cars and most things that currently contain high capacity batteries such as laptops.
        • by xtal (49134) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:11AM (#13888012)
          Don't underestimate the problems with storing hydrogen. It's pesky and diffuses through everything.

          There's another use of windmill power that requires no fancy conversion electronics, or fancy electrolysis setups. Run whatever horrible waveform you get out of your alternator on a stick into a big old resistor that gets hot. This is cost-effective for me (in a rural setting) to heat my home with now, versus using diesel (heating oil). Nicely enough, periods that use more heat often are much more windy.

          More interesting would be an engineering comparison on the efficiencies if using windmill-heated steam versus direct hydrogen combustion. Both would be mobile, but the steam could easily drive a turbine.

          Either way, you'd need millions of windmills to replace the energy consumed daily in the form of oil. It's important to keep that in perspective. There is NO good mass volume alternative to oil in the near future, people should be planning accordingly. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely to happen.
          • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot&nexusuk,org> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:36AM (#13888117) Homepage
            Don't underestimate the problems with storing hydrogen. It's pesky and diffuses through everything.

            True, but it's still easier than storing electricity.

            There's another use of windmill power that requires no fancy conversion electronics, or fancy electrolysis setups. Run whatever horrible waveform you get out of your alternator on a stick into a big old resistor that gets hot. This is cost-effective for me (in a rural setting) to heat my home with now, versus using diesel (heating oil)

            But that suggestion is only useful for less than half of the year (depending where you live) when you actually need to heat your home. During the summer there's still quite a lot of wind which would be going to waste.

            Either way, you'd need millions of windmills to replace the energy consumed daily in the form of oil.

            Indeed, and I don't think anyone (apart from a few nutty greens) would suggest otherwise.

            There is NO good mass volume alternative to oil in the near future, people should be planning accordingly. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely to happen.

            Fission is a good alternative to fossil fuels, produces energy in a large quantity and is in many respects less polluting (if only because you seal up the waste and store it instead of pumping it into the atmosphere). Modern fission reactors are also very safe.

            In the long run, fusion looks promising (especially since the politicians have now stopped arguing about where to build ITER) but still a way off
            Orbital solar arrays also have a lot of potential - even more so if we get our finger out and set up a moon base since much of the structure of the satellites could be manufactured on the moon and then launched relatively inexpensively with mass drivers. This stuff isn't science fiction - it _can_ be done if the investment is made. Sadly the people in power seem to be happy to blindly burn fossil fuels until we have completely run out. I guess today's politicians are safe in the knowledge that they won't be in power when the shit hits the fan.
            • Ok, fusion is nice, and solar arrays, too (although solar arrays have the potential of failing in pretty apocalyptical ways)

              But fission works. Right now.
              And it's cost efficient.
              And it pollutes, but _much_ less than any other means of energy generation.
              It even generates less radioactive waste than some. And the waste it generates is manageably containable. Plus, you could always get rid of your waste once you had a fusion reactor working. With that kind of amount of energy, someone would come up with some so
              • Start using breeder reactors and we have solved our current nuclear "waste" "problem".

                As for the windmills. Currently the problems listed usually deal with birds and bats flying into them or getting hit by them. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,69 0 3,1130672,00.html [guardian.co.uk]
                http://www.laweekly.com/ink/05/17/news-lewis.php [laweekly.com]
                http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16383 [heartland.org]

                Ignoring the eminent domain portions, the main problem seems to be that all the best spots for wind power are on bird migratio
                • Start using breeder reactors and we have solved our current nuclear "waste" "problem".

                  That would be nice, but breeder reactors are prohibited by some nuclear weapons treaty we (the US) signed, along with uh, some other nations. So things would have to change a bit in order for that to ever happen. This is because breeder reactors are capable of producing weapons-grade materials. We can't even manage to build nuclear fission plants anywhere (esp. in California) due to NIMBYism.

                  • That would be nice, but breeder reactors are prohibited by some nuclear weapons treaty we (the US) signed, along with uh, some other nations.

                    The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does NOT prohibit breader reactors. Nor does any other treaty the US has signed. What does prohibit breader reactors in the US is an execuitive order signed by Jimmy Carter. In fact, France uses breeder reactors. The only reason Carter banned them is that they produce plutonium. This plutonium can still be used in power plan
            • Ignoring breeder reactors for a moment, nuclear waste is a resource. Currently our supply of helium comes from oil wells (trapped alpha particles from decayed radioactive materials.)

              If oil runs out, helium will too. It's non-reactive and so light that our planet's atmosphere can't hold it.

              One alternative to this is to get the helium from decaying nuclear waste. I have no clue why people aren't doing this. Are they?
      • Re:so where (Score:3, Informative)

        by FridayBob (619244)
        "Theoretically, they could get it from nuclear power or from wind power, which is beginning to mature. ..."

        And the faster the price of oil goes up, the sooner those alternative energy sources will mature. Seriously, they've been plenty mature for quite a while now, even though the technology is always being improved. However, on price alone (and not counting the cost of the environmental consequences), they're always going to be more expensive than cheap oil. That's always been the problem with alternati
    • In this case it doesn't matter where we get the electricity to make the hydrogen. This application is not about generating energy, but really about making a better battery. The hydrogen is just a container for the electricity that you'd normally have put in a lithium-ion battery. Hopefully the fuel-cell will have a much higher energy density than a conventional battery, finally allowing decent runtimes.
    • No electricity needed
      It actually takes much less energy to extract it from hydrocarbons.
  • Cleaner? (Score:5, Funny)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:43AM (#13887289) Homepage
    those efforts are based on DMFC technology which derives hydrogen from methanol, producing small amounts of carbon dioxide (itself a greenhouse gas) in the process. Canon's cells obtain hydrogen from a refillable cartridge with no toxic byproducts.

    As long as we're considering small quantities of C02 a 'toxic byproduct' as a greenhouse gas, I would like to point out that that all hydrogen fuel cells generate dihydrogen monoxide as their principle biproduct, which is an even worse greenhouse gas.

    • Re:Cleaner? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Chairboy (88841) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:48AM (#13887305) Homepage
      True, DMHO vapor has been intimately associated with the "greenhouse effect". Not to mention, high levels of DMHO are found in the bodies of cancer victims. Is this really the stuff we want to be making more of? It's corrosive, for pete's sake!

      Won't somebody please think of the children?
      • by Chairboy (88841)
        As you can see, it also causes dyslexia. I'm referring to DHMO, of course, not DMHO. 100% of all dyslexics have DHMO in their diets!
      • Re:Cleaner? (Score:2, Funny)

        by SteveAyre (209812)
        It's also extremely addictive.

        Anyone who takes DHMO is 100% guaranteed to keep taking it until they die.
    • Re:Cleaner? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Cruithne (658153) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:49AM (#13887306)
      I would like to point out that that all hydrogen fuel cells generate dihydrogen monoxide as their principle biproduct, which is an even worse greenhouse gas.

      I'd also like to point out that furry cute little rabbits emit both C02 and dihydrogen monoxide... simultaneously!
    • Mods are on crack. (Score:2, Informative)

      by sr180 (700526)
      I love how the moderators around here are on crack. +4 Interesting? Dihydrogen monoxide is WATER.

      He has made a joke, not written an informative statement...

      • HUSH! You ruined it! I was having a blast hitting F5 and watching the comment getting modded up and up!

        *goes back to getting some work done*
      • You know, it has become a custom around here to mod up funny comments as interesting or informative so that the poster gets karma. Besides, modding funny comments as interesting or informative is also funny. I would meta-mod such mod as funny if I could.
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @04:09AM (#13887494) Homepage Journal
        ``I love how the moderators around here are on crack. +4 Interesting? Dihydrogen monoxide is WATER.

        He has made a joke, not written an informative statement...''

        Regardless of how he meant it, water does have a much stronger greenhouse effect than CO2. See the entry in the WikiPedia article [wikipedia.org].
        • "Regardless of how he meant it, water does have a much stronger greenhouse effect than CO2."

          In a lab, not in the troposphere. Net effect of H2O is very low. Read a little further down in the Wikipedia entry: "Water vapor in the troposphere, unlike the better-known greenhouse gases such as CO2, is essentially passive in terms of climate: the residence time for water vapor in the atmosphere is short (about a week) so perturbations to water vapor rapidly re-equilibriate. In contrast, the lifetimes of CO
    • Re:Cleaner? (Score:4, Funny)

      by gringer (252588) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:17AM (#13887380)
      Oh, don't worry, we'll get there with banning DHMO. A few years ago the Green Party in New Zealand decided that starting a campaign to ban DHMO would be a good idea [junkscience.com].

      Yes... this really happened.

      For those interested in this very nasty chemical, I suggest you visit http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html [dhmo.org]
    • Re:Cleaner? (Score:2, Insightful)

      "I would like to point out that that all hydrogen fuel cells generate dihydrogen monoxide as their principle biproduct, which is an even worse greenhouse gas."

      ...so does that make this fuel cell the ultimate vapourware?

      (wince)

    • Actually, water is technically not dihydrogen monoxide, the hydrogen and oxygen atoms are bonded like they would be in an acid, so it should be hydrogen hydroxide
  • Has that site been slashdotted or the content taken down? I keep getting a blank page and mirrordot doesn't have it either?
  • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:02AM (#13887341)
    Another press release about a breakthrough that (assuming we actually get it working reliably and cheaply) may possibly dubut in a high end product nobody would buy for sticker-shock reasons in Japan in three years.

    Really, wake me up when it's actually in a shipping product. I'll be excited then. Until it's working in the real world, it's just vaporware.
  • by Maskirovka (255712) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:13AM (#13887365)
    Would the fuel cell batteries last longer than the current lithium batteries when subject to cold tempuratures?
  • Energy Density (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zardo (829127) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:18AM (#13887385)
    A hydrogen cartridge wouldn't have the same energy density as an ethnol cartridge, it would have to be pressurized in a strong container, whereas ethnol can be poured into the camera. Sounds like a bad idea from the get go. When are they going to come out with a camera that is powered by the push of the button? They could put a nuclear fuel cell on the camera, but that doesn't make a very handy camera, IMO. No battery at all, now that would be marvelous.
    • by surprise_audit (575743) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:38AM (#13887658)
      When are they going to come out with a camera that is powered by the push of the button?

      You mean, like the old fashioned manual-wind, shutter-and-film variety that have no electronics at all?? I think they first came out in the 1800s...

    • Along the same lines, I'd love to see a comparison of the overall efficiency of fuel cells versus batteries. What I mean is, when you consider generating electricity, transmitting it to a charger, charging it to a battery and retrieving it from the battery, how does that compare to generating electricity, using it to generate hydrogen, and extracting electricity from a fuel cell?
  • broken link (Score:5, Informative)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:24AM (#13887397) Homepage
  • Not again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by squoozer (730327) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:41AM (#13887432)

    Here we go again. Someone will say that hydrogen is a power source and then a bunch of pedants will jump on him / her claiming that it's not a power sources it's a power store as it uses more energy to create it. Then there will be an argument over what constitutes a power source. Does that about sum up the discussion?

    • by shmlco (594907)
      Well I guess it does, now that you've gone and ruined it for everybody...
    • Except for your ludicrous assertion that it is pedantic to correct a major misstatement, yes, you have it right. So, for the record, why is it pedantic to point out that an energy source takes more energy to produce or find than it contains? Seems like a pretty important fact. It's certainly a more useful observation to the uninformed than yet another post predicting how dismal a discussion is going to be.
      • It's pedantic because most people would consider a bottle of hydrogen an energy source. This is just like most people thinking a battery (rechargable or otherwise) is an energy source even though it has taken far more energy to charge or produce the battery. The point is that in certain situations it pays to think of the bottle of hydrogen as an energy source even though over all it is an energy sink. Supprisingly, studies show that most people aren't scientists.

        • Huh? It would be pedantic if everybody got it right. You're saying people tend to get it wrong. Therefore, it's anything but pedantic to correct a mistake everybody makes, especially when it's significant. I don't think most people consider a battery an energy source. Everybody knows you have to charge a battery. I don't think everybody knows the same is true for hydrogen.
      • It's pedantic because of course hydrogen isn't an energy source. Neither is oil, Neither is the sun. THERE IS NO ENERGY SOURCE. There is $foo energy in the universe, it's been here since the big bang. Some of it's flying around as radiation, most of it's conveniently stored as hydrogen and helium floating around the universe. So all the whiners complaining that "it's not an energy source it's storage, the sun is the source / dinosaurs are the source / etc etc" are dickheads. I agree with the GP 100%.
  • by roesti (531884) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @03:52AM (#13887453)
    Please often ask me, a Slashdotter from the future who owns a plethora of electronic gadgets powered by hydrogen fuel cells, how you fill one of these cells up when it's empty. Where does the hydrogen come from?

    Well, some people have their own hydrogen-generating machines. Of course, these run on electricity; see, the generation of hydrogen costs more energy than the hydrogen contains - that is, it has an EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) less than one. Whatever you're processing to make hydrogen, you have to use up energy to get the reaction happening. Even if you wanted to do this, every home in the industrialised world would need a hydrogen-generating machine that ran on electricity - the manufacturing of which would cost enormous amounts of energy and materials, even if it worked at generating energy.

    In some places, hydrogen is generated in big power plants and delivered "on tap" to your home or office. This might sound dangerous, but then again, people had gas stoves once, until natural gas production peaked and the price tripled overnight. Again, you'd need to retro-fit an enormous amount of infrastructure in which to deliver the hydrogen - the laying of which would cost enormous amounts of energy and materials, even if it worked at generating energy.

    In any case, we need to do something. I mean, we've got all these gadgets - the manufacturing of which cost us enormous amounts of energy and materials - and they're all powered by billions of hydrogen fuel cells - the manufacturing of which cost us enormous amounts of energy and materials. Even though the average electronic device consumes ten times its weight in fossil fuels during its manufacture [un.org], and even though the generation of hydrogen costs twice as much energy as the resulting hydrogen contains [culturechange.org], people still bought into this sham in droves, believing that it's better for the environment.

    In reality, it's made the problem more widespread because we demand more energy than ever before, and it hasn't solved anything because we haven't really found a new source of energy with which to replace fossil fuels. Made me think twice about buying that hybrid car, too [lifeaftertheoilcrash.net].

    You try telling people this was a bad idea, though. They'll look up from their plates of raw vegetables and mugs of rain water, and tell you to keep your big mouth shut.

    • Right now, anyway, the whole point of hydrogen fuel cells is not to see hydrogen as a PRODUCER of energy; the current goal is to use fuel cells as a hydrogen transport mechanism. The rationale behind this is simple; the only byproducts (at least with proton-exchange membrane fuel stacks) are water and heat, which is not a pollutant. The manufacture of hydrogen will produce pollutants, however the vehicle (or in this case, the electronic device) has far from an ideal methods to deal with these pollutants c
      • But if you're going to use energy to make a fuel as a "energy transportation medium", why not spend it on making suitable hydrocarbons?

        There's lots of existing infrastructure and tech for transporting and using hydrocarbons.

        It's still a net zero CO2 generation if you take CO2 from the air to make the hydrocarbons.

        What we'd need are decent hydrocarbon fuel cells.
        • What we'd need are decent hydrocarbon fuel cells

          I hear these [northerntool.com] work pretty well...
        • This actually isn't a bad suggestion, and it's one I'd never seriously considered. But it makes a certain amount of sense.

          Hydrogen is really an energy storage and transportation medium. It's a way of getting energy from a power plant to where you want the work to be done (or close to it). The advantage, as I understand it, comes from the economy of scale at the power plant.

          Suppose just for the sake of argument that you have a car that runs on petroleum and a power plant that also uses petroleum. Putting asi
    • 2 to 1 is not too bad for recharging a battery. I'm sure most of the wall warts we use for re-charging batteries use more than that.
    • Yeah...guess what? Batteries also have a negative EROI. They work exactly the same way as fuel cells do. Batteries are more efficient overall, and there is talk of fast recharging batteries. For this reason, hydrogen is not the best energy storage mechanism, but until I can charge my battery fully in 5 minutes or so, I'm afraid it looks like these all in one electronics have no choice but to try and use fuel cells.

      PS. Methanol would be best for portable electronics unless we find a good solid state hydrogen
    • In reality, it's made the problem more widespread because we demand more energy than ever before, and it hasn't solved anything because we haven't really found a new source of energy with which to replace fossil fuels. Made me think twice about buying that hybrid car, too

      Why does that make hybrid cars bad (yes, I drive one)? Hybrid cars are environmentally friendly because they use smaller, more efficient gasoline engines and revover energy from the brakes that would otherwise be completely lost as heat. C
      • Hybrid cars are not environmentally friendly. It already takes many years' worth of driving to use as much energy in fuel as is used to produce a car, and this is probably worse for hybrids because there are more parts to produce. Buying a new car is one of the worst things you can do to the environment. Companies like Toyota and Smart have the right idea here, in that many parts of the cars are recyclable or reusable with little treatment.

        Your caveat - "if you have to drive" - would make sense for, well,

  • clean and safe? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stwf (108002)
    I didn't bother to read the article, did it mention how big a hole in an airplane this fuel cell could make? THey won't let me bring a lighter on board, and that isn't even a realistic threat!

  • by Centurix (249778)
    Japan will get them in everything before everyone else, by the time we get the replacement fuel cell in our hands the Japanese will have added cameras, out-of-fuel-crazy-frog-alert-tones, flashing lights, colourful straps and furry attachments.

    Our first batch of these things will look like a grey brick with wires.
  • Methanol CAN be green, but right now methanol is mostly manufactured from FOSSIL FULES [wikipedia.org]. Methanol is highly toxic, even upon contact with skin.

    The article is also wrong. Methanol fuel cells [wikipedia.org] do not reform into hydrogen. If it did, the fuel cell would suffer from all of the cost of materials problems as conventional fuel cells.

    Again all of this is old news, as Toshiba has already done a press release [toshiba-europe.com] about a 100mw direct methanol fuel cell.
  • by vhogemann (797994) <victor AT hogemann DOT com> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:21AM (#13887637) Homepage
    Since you have to grow large crops of sugar-cane to produce the Methanol, and these will consume large quantities of CO2. In the end, there will be no "new" CO2 released to the atmosphere, and the greenhouse effect will stop to increase.

    Methanol is a good choice for fuelling cars too, since it generates more power than gasoline, less CO2 and it's cheaper to produce. The only problem is the oxidation it produces, but this will not be a issue when we switch over to eletric cars, powered by fuel cells!

    The problem with fossil combustibles, like gasoline and diesel, is the oil they come from. Since it was trapped under the ground for millions of years, the CO2 contained on it is no longer part of the planet ecosystem. When we burn it, were injecting new CO2 to the atmosphere, and that's the main cause of the greenhouse effect.
    • The problem with fossil combustibles, like gasoline and diesel, is the oil they come from. Since it was trapped under the ground for millions of years, the CO2 contained on it is no longer part of the planet ecosystem.

      It is now!

    • Methanol is a good choice for fuelling cars too, since it generates more power than gasoline...

      Bzzzzt! Methanol contains only about half as much energy per liter as gasoline. Here's [xtronics.com] a summary table of several fuels. Maintaining the same driving range requires a tank that's twice as big. Obtaining the same power output from a fuel-injected ICE will require injecting twice as much each cycle. It is potentially useful in a fuel-cell to power an electric car, which can overall be more efficient at extracti

      • While it is true that methanol contains about half as much energy as gasoline by volume, that does not mean you need twice as much to go the same distance. Methanol burns much better in a standard engine (high octane), and in an engine designed for it can get nearly the same range per volume of fuel even though there is less energy in that fuel.

        SAAB has a car that gets the same gas milage on ethanol (not methanol which is the subject of this message, but ethanol is similar to methanol so this example is

  • by jolyonr (560227) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:47AM (#13887673) Homepage
    Seeing as Canon are involved, they'll probably contain 5ml of Hydrogen, cost half the price of the camera and be chipped to prevent unauthorized refilling.

    Jolyon
    • Seeing as Canon are involved, they'll probably contain 5ml of Hydrogen, cost half the price of the camera and be chipped to prevent unauthorized refilling.

      Arf... actually, I was going to get the same joke in myself, but about the tiny tankfuls, not the chipping. The reason I use a (low-end) Canon printer is that (unlike their rivals) they *don't* play silly buggers with chips, refills and so on; you can get third-party ink tanks with no hassle.

      I've never had to consider a refill kit, as I can get new
  • by CubicleView (910143) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:41AM (#13888487) Journal
    All these articles, about hydrogen fuel cells always lead to the same argument being posted. Ie: Hydrogen isn't a better fuel source than oil because it requires electricity to produce. To get electricity you have to burn more oil, and due to losses in the circuit you'd be better off just burning the oil in the first place. This argument is flawed (at least IMOA). Don't look at hydrogen or oil as competing fuel sources, consider them to be simply different mediums for transfer energy. With oil the circuit is Sun -> Plants->Dinosaurs->Oil, Coal, whatever. An awful lot of energy is lost in that circuit. The Oil itself requires energy to extract and refine for a start, and plants and animals are not very efficient. Anyway bottom line is, oil just represents loads of stored solar energy, which we're using faster than we're replacing. With hydrogen you can store energy from multiple sources, solar wind, nuclear, etc. As long as those sources don't release pollutants etc it's a much cleaner and faster energy transfer medium. It's not as energy dense, but it's easily more energy efficient and cost effective than growing a butt load of plants and dinosaurs and waiting for thousands of years while they turn into Oil.
    • Actually, while I agree that everybody is missing the point, so are you. The whole Green thing is just a little tidbit they threw in there to get everybody all hot and bothered. However, it's fairly irrelevent when you're talking about methods to power gadgets. For one, nobody powers gadgets off oil. Second, they are such a small amount of energy relative to cars that it's not worth worrying about. Fuel cells in cameras is simply about getting more time between recharges. Nobody is doing this because fuel c
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:51AM (#13888551) Homepage Journal
    Gads. People are worried over the CO2 emmisions from fuel cells running on methanol and ethanol. Of course, we ignore that the methanol and ethanol were created by growing things that consumed CO2, so it is a net zero carbon cycle.

    OK, folks - if you are going to obsess over CO2 emissions, here are some other CO2 producing items you should be worried about:
    • George W. Bush
    • Bill Clinton
    • Rush Limbaugh
    • Ted Kennedy
    • Rob Malda
    • Shamu
      And not the least of all:
    • YOU - YES YOU! THE PERSON READING THIS COMMENT!


  • Of course, the cartridges will not be refillable, just like their ink cartridges -- and they'll be coded with special chips that can't be modified, will tell you that you have no "fuel" left when you have a half-full cartridge, and uses .5% of the cartridges' power every boot-up to go through an "initialization" cycle.

    It's the same as their current strategy of selling ink for $10,000 a liter.

    If they're REALLY good, they'll make the screen that transfers the energy clog irrecoverably from time to time
  • by technoCon (18339) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#13890843) Homepage Journal
    Could I see some kind of comparison between the amount of CO2 emitted by these fuel cells versus other sources of CO2. Every time I read about these fuel cells on Slashdot, I see the same caveat that they emit CO2. My suspicion is that if they emit so much CO2 that they'll measurably impact the atmosphere, they'll also be unsafe to operate indoors.

    Greenhouse emissions may kill us all, but I think we have to worry a lot more about the Chinese burning coal than these fuel cells.

    We need to keep some perspective here. Afterall humans generate CO2, too.

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