Sometime in the future, Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad and MacBook might work longer than ever on a smaller and lighter battery pack. How is this possible? By using hydrogen fuel cells, which convert oxygen and hydrogen into water, heat and electricity. The US Patent & Trademark Office has recently published two Apple patent applications, detailing how fuel cells might power smartphones, laptops and tablets of the future.
Hydrogen fuel cells aren't exactly a new technology; they've been used to power Honda cars, for example, and they bring their own set of problems, especially in the context of smartphones or laptops. "It is extremely challenging to design hydrogen fuel cell systems which are sufficiently portable and cost-effective to be used with portable electronic devices," admits Apple.
But Apple might have a solution. One of the patent applications describes a "fuel cell system which is capable of both providing power to and receiving power from a rechargeable battery in a portable computing device. This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system."
And for how long these fuel cells (in its patent application, Apple explores other fuel possibilities besides hydrogen) could power a smartphone or a laptop? The answer is "days or even weeks without refueling," according to Apple. This sounds like a dream to owners of most modern smartphones, which barely last a day of heavy use.
We'll probably have to wait a while until fuel cell-powered iPhones and MacBooks hit the market, but a big breakthrough in battery technology is something we've been waiting for a long time, and it might change the face of the market forever.
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