A tiny fuel cell just 3 mm across that will fit on one’s fingertip has been created by engineers at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. U of I engineers Saeed Moghaddam and Mark Shannon created a tiny fuel cell that has just four components.
The fuel cell components include a water reservoir, a metal hydride chamber, a thin membrane separating the two and an assembly of electrodes. So, basically a small amount of water is used as fuel. This water is split into its components of hydrogen and oxygen by the metal hydride chamber.
The hydrogen and oxygen gases then pass over the electrodes where an electrical charge is created. As the hydrogen reaction drops, just add water to keep the fuel cell going. This tiny fuel cell is a zero emissions, zero gravity device as it uses surface tension to control the flow of water through the system.
This means that the device the fuel cell is installed inside such as a small electronic gadget, can be flipped, turned and tossed about with no ill effects. Since small fuel cells pack 3 to 10 times the energy density of lithium ion batteries, one can expect laptops, cell phones and iPods over the next couple of years to make the conversion to this very green power source.