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Future Apple devices could be powered by fuel cells

Intelligent Energy Upp fuel cell

Apple has reportedly signed a deal with UK-based fuel cell company Intelligent Energy to provide green power for its devices

In the not too distant future, your iPad, iPhone and MacBook could be powered by fuel cells rather than traditional batteries – at least if rumours of a deal inked between Apple and British fuel cell firm Intelligent Energy is any indication. The Daily Mail has reported that “Senior sources in the US” confirmed to the paper that the two companies are now working to embed fuel cells in electronic devices within the next few years.

Fuel cells convert the chemical energy from a fuel source into electricity, through a chemical reaction with oxygen or other oxidizing agent. Hydrogen, natural gas and methanol are common fuel sources for fuel cells, and have the potential to be much greener and far more efficient than traditional batteries. If embedded in an iPad, a miniaturised fuel cell could go several days or even weeks on a single charge – significantly better than today’s limited battery life using traditional lithium batteries.

Despite the lack of evidence, the report shouldn’t come as a major surprise; Intelligent Energy recruited Apple product specialist Joe O’Sulivan as Chief Operating Officer, so already had strong ties with the company, and has recently opened an office in San Jose – just down the road from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. When it bought a collection of patents regarding the practical application of fuel cells from battery company Eveready last year, it confirmed it had done so in partnership with an electronics giant, but refused to name names. It appears that company was indeed Apple.

This wouldn’t be the first time fuel cell technology has been proposed for consumer electronics; Toshiba introduced a concept MP3 player in 2005 that could last for 60 hours on a 10ml charge of concentrated methanol. However, with Apple’s massive R&D budget behind the tech, we could soon see more commercialised versions in the near future.

Neither Apple nor Intelligent Energy were willing to comment on the report, and based on current technology it will be several years until we see the technology in consumer products – if the rumour actually proves accurate.