Apple Files Patent for MacBooks Powered by Fuel Cells

If you’ve ever owned a laptop or a netbook, you know that their batteries come with a finite lifespan. But what about a longer lasting alternative to powering up your computer? Fuel cells, namely hydrogen fuel cells, not only boast a longer useful life, but they are also capable of running for weeks without requiring a recharge. Not surprisingly, it is reported that Apple is looking into using this technology, recently filing two patents incorporating the cells.

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According to Apple Insider, the tech giant is researching the prospect of powering their MacBooks with fuel cells. A pair of Apple patent applications were recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” and “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device.”

The application filing stated rather bluntly that due to “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.”

Apple have also proposed that their Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT be used to increase consumer awareness of the environmental friendliness of electronic devices. However, it is the fuel cell prospect that is most appealing.

By using hydrogen fuel cells, Apple’s portable devices would be able to operate “for days or even weeks without refueling.” However there are the usual challenges that go with hydrogen fuel cells – namely how to make them cost-effective and, due to their general size, smaller. Apple’s proposal is to create a fuel cell system that can both provide power and receive power from a rechargeable battery found in a device like a MacBook.

“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,” the patent application said. “This fuel cell system includes a fuel cell stack which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system.”

Apple investing in fuel cell technology? This can only be a good thing.

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