We've been anticipating fuel-cell powered gadgets for a while now, and today a small but significant step was taken to bring them one step closer: the U.S. Department of Transportation moved to amend aviation regulations to allow for passengers to carry on methanol-based fuel cells when they fly. The proposed amendment would allow for one fuel cell unit and two methanol fuel cartridges to be brought on board per passenger. Although methanol is a flammable fuel, the electricity-generating reaction inside of a fuel cell does not require combustion—with carbon dioxide and water vapor being the only byproducts of the reaction. Similar rules amendments have already been made to the transportation regulations of several other countries, including Canada, Japan, the U.K. and China.
Mobion—the makers of one of the most promising methanol fuel cells for use in mobile technology (pictured above) and a Best of What's New Grand Award winner from 2004—are especially delighted by today's announcement. As am I—having just endured a lithium-ion-destroying 14-hour flight to Japan, an unlimited fuel supply for my laptop would have allowed for several more life-sustaining episodes of Freaks and Geeks in-flight.
With today's announcement, now might be a good time to check out our PPX proposition (FCELL) questioning whether or not a fuel-cell-powered laptop will make it to market by 2009. I'd say we're headed in the right direction. Buy! Buy! —John Mahoney
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.