Could a fuel cell power your smartphone?

Could a fuel cell power your smartphone?

Could the days of sending a final, frantic text with the words "on my way, about to run out of battery" be about to come to an end?

That is the hope of telecom giant Cable & Wireless and U.K.-based fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy, which used this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to announce they are working together on a pilot project that could see mobile phone batteries replaced with cleaner and longer-lasting fuel cells.

The two companies confirmed they will collaborate on a "user trial" of a new portable power device designed by Intelligent Energy, which will see the microfuel cell technology tested by Cable & Wireless Communications' Channel Island-based Sure mobile phone network.

The companies provided few details on the nature of the trial and a spokesman for Intelligent Energy refused to be drawn on how the technology will work, how the pilot will be undertaken or how much will be invested in the project.

Next step: How serious are they? 

However, the company did confirm it sees its development of portable fuel-cell powered devices as an extension of its stationary fuel cell generator business, which provides zero emission fuel cells as backup power systems for infrastructure such as mobile phone towers.

The technology would presumably see the lithium ion batteries that feature in many mobile technologies replaced with fuel cells that would last longer and then either be recharged or replaced.

Mike Fawkner-Corbett, Sure's head of mobile, said the technology could offer a major revenue boost for mobile network operators, while also improving the customer experience and reducing environmental impacts.

"Intelligent Energy's cutting-edge technology offers a solution to power our device off grid and provides a much longer operating life than a conventional battery," he said. "It's attractive as it would unlock real additional revenue opportunities for telecom operators, enabling consumers to stay connected for longer and unshackled by the constraints of battery life."

His comments were echoed by Phil Caldwell, director of corporate development at Intelligent Energy, who said the technology would offer a "durable and cost-effective solution that can be integrated into a wide range of consumer applications."

The agreement is the latest in a series of high-profile partnerships for Intelligent Energy, which recently saw the company announce that its work with Suzuki was making impressive progress towards the development of more cost-effective fuel cells.

Reprinted with permission from BusinessGreen

Photo of small power device by provided anaken2012 via Shutterstock.