Perhaps one of the more frustrating instances in owning a mobile device is keeping it charged while you’re on the go. For those of us who aren’t heavy users with our phones, this isn’t as much of an issue, but for the mobile worker or entrepreneur, having to keep a cord on hands at all time and pray there is power nearby to plug in is like playing roulette – you never know if you’re going to have the staying power or go into radio silence.
Intelligent Energy, a British technology firm, claims a breakthrough in mobile charging solutions – specifically for the iPhone (News - Alert) – having developed a built-in hydrogen fuel cell that can power an iPhone for a week without recharging. The company has built a working iPhone 6 as a prototype, which contains both a regular lithium-ion battery and a hydrogen cell module that produces electrical current by mixing hydrogen and oxygen.
“To our knowledge this has never been done before,” Henri Winand, chief executive of Intelligent Energy, told the Telegraph.
“We have now managed to make a fuel cell so thin we can fit it to the existing chassis without alterations and retaining the rechargeable battery. This is a major step because if you are moving to a new technology you have to give people a path they are comfortable with.”
The company already sells a $200 hydrogen battery device called Upp, but unlike their new solution, it is entirely external and just charges the device’s internal battery. The iPhone prototype can be “charged” with hydrogen-releasing powder via a modified headphone jack.
But what if you already own an iPhone 6? Well, there is some good news.
Intelligent Energy claims existing iPhone 6 models could be retrofitted with the new battery technology with just a small cosmetic change to add vents so water vapor can escape.
The current product is just a prototype, but the firm is now planning to introduce the commercial version of hydrogen fuel cell at a time still to be determined.
What’s the big deal about fuel cells? Unlike batteries that must be disposed of once their chemicals are used up, fuel cell reactions do not degrade over time and can theoretically provide continuous power. A fuel cell will produce electricity as long as it has a fuel supply.
Fuel cell systems have been making inroads into consumer electronics markets, most notably as external battery chargers. Several companies have unveiled portable charging systems that contain a micro-fuel cell and are set to rival Li-ion chargers, but Intelligent Energy’s solution is a game changer.
"Once our fuel cell technology is brought to the inside of the consumer electronic device, we will have moved in some way to becoming liberated from the electrical grid entirely," wrote Intelligent Energy in a blog post. "Smartphones could then be able to generate their own clean power and the dream of a week of battery life could be a reality."
Edited by Rory J. Thompson