Apple working on fuel cell tech for laptops
Patent registered in US describes fuel cell system to power portable computing device
Apple could be developing fuel cell technology aimed at powering its laptops, according to a patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The patent, published last week, describes the technology as "a fuel cell system to power a portable computing device". In the patent, there are references to Apple's MagSafe power connector for its laptops, hinting that the aim would be to have the company's MacBook range powered by fuel cells.
Fuel cells differ from battery technology in that they can be thought of miniaturised power reactors. Already well demonstrated in cars, fuel cells combine fuel - typically hydrogen - with an oxidising agent such as oxygen. The result is a power source that emits nothing except for water.
Even in cars, the amount of water discharged is relatively small, and it is thought that, if Apple can miniaturise the technology further, the water emitted by the reactor would be negligible.
However, the patent does not describe how Apple would put such technology to use. After all, fuel cells require fuel, meaning that, instead of charging up a laptop, users would still have ‘refuel' the device from time to time. What's more, hydrogen is hardly safe, due to it being highly combustible in its gas form. Apple seems to realise this, though, and has listed other potential fuels in its patent, including water, lithium hydride and sodium borohydride.
Most likely, this sort of power source is a long way away from making into consumer devices, though it does show a peek into what could be the future. Perhaps Apple imagines that, before too long, consumer devices may not rely on old-fashioned plug sockets.