Polyfuel claims 5,000 hour DMFC membrane

Oct. 31, 2005 — PolyFuel Inc., a Mountain View, Calif., developer of fuel cell membranes, announced that its hydrocarbon DMFC (direct methanol fuel cell) membrane has passed the 5,000-hour mark in durability testing.

“Membrane durability has always been one of the key technical challenges faced by fuel cell manufacturers, as it translates directly to the lifetime of a fuel cell,” said Jim Balcom, president and CEO of PolyFuel, in a prepared statement. “In applications targeted for portable fuel cells, consumers are acclimatized to battery lifetimes in the 2,000 to 3,000 hour range for their portable devices.” Balcom said passing that threshold was a crucial benchmark.

Fuel cell membranes are engineered films of various plastic polymers — resembling stiff cellophane — that when covered with a catalyst material, enable fuels such as methanol or hydrogen to generate an electric current capable of powering electronic devices, or even automobiles. Unlike batteries, which must be recharged from a wall outlet, fuel cells are simply resupplied with a new fuel cartridge.

In the case of portable electronics, the methanol fuel — a type of alcohol — is expected to be supplied in the form of small, lightweight, snap-in cartridges that will share shelf space at stores with batteries and cigarette lighters.

- David Forman

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