Orange County – Apple has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to use hydrogen fuel cell batteries in portable electronic devices. Apple believes that hydrogen fuel cell batteries offer the possibility of being lighter, less bulky, and more fuel efficient than batteries currently on the market. Consumers could potentially go weeks without having to charge their battery on their portable electronic device giving Apple a significant competitive advantage over their rivals.
In another statement of optimism, Apple believes that the environment will also benefit from this new technology. Current battery technology potentially requires toxic chemicals, which are hazardous to the environment, that are shipped from distant countries increasing the company’s carbon footprint. Hydrogen fuel cell technology only requires hydrogen and oxygen to produce its by-products of water and electricity.
Apple summarized its position in the patent application regarding the environmental benefits, “Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling. These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources.”
The possibility of using hydrogen fuel cells in portable electronic devices is the result of recent improvements in the technology. A hydrogen battery uses a proton exchange membrane to break down the hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water. This process was believed to be volatile and corrosive for small applications. A new method was developed that eliminated the corrosive effects of this reaction allowing a small container to be used. This method also allows the electricity produced from the reaction to be stored in the same small container. The result is the ability to use hydrogen fuel cell technology in portable electronic devices without fear of harm to the consumer.
Apple is expected to incorporate this new technology in the next generation of its portable electronic devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Apple has been interested in hydrogen fuel cell technology for its products for some time and has even filed two patent applications in October 2011 related to hydrogen fuel cell technology. The first patent application involves arranging a set of fuel cells into a fuel stack, while the second patent application uses lightweight electrically conductive and corrosion-resistant material to build a fuel cell.
Previously, Apple investigated using solar cells to achieve its desire of its products being more environmentally friendly. However, solar cells poise other problems such as the expense of the materials and the inadequate energy output that have been difficult to overcome.