29 February 2016 ~ 5 Comments

New smartphone batteries could last a week

Upp Cartridge image via Intelligent Energy.

What is the number one item on the wish list of nearly everyone who owns a smartphone? Batteries that last longer than 24 hours! As phones become faster and more powerful, batteries are struggling to keep up with the increasing demands for power and this is the number one feature we’ve been campaigning for since we started reviewing handsets.

British company, Intelligent Energy has just announced that it has signed a £5.25 million ($7.60 million) joint development agreement with an unnamed “emerging” smartphone original equipment manufacturer to develop an embedded hydrogen fuel cell which could potentially power a smartphone for up to a week.

The Loughborough based company has been at the forefront of fuel cell technology development for over 25 years. Fuel cell technology offers possibilities which mobile phone users currently can only dream about. By embedding a fuel cell into a phone it would then be feasible to enjoy off-grid power for long periods without any reduction in the capabilities of the smartphone. In addition, overheating batteries would also be a thing of the past.

The fuel cell generates electricity from a chemical reaction that combines hydrogen with oxygen. The process generates energy and the only waste product is water – it’s the same science behind hydrogen cars work. It is not clear at this stage how the waste water will be discharged since this would inevitably require a vent of some kind which could feasible impact on some of the waterproof phone designs.

Intelligent Energy has already developed and taken to market a hydrogen fuel cell power pack for recharging smartphones off the grid. The Upp cartridge, currently available in the UK, is a fuel cell that provides a user around five smartphone charges and can then be exchanged for a refilled cartridge that the user must purchase. It is available online and in some Apple stores for £5.95 per cell.

As well as being a huge benefit for everyday users fed up of huge power-hungry screens and poor wifi battery performance, an integrated fuel cell will be a very desirable for heavy users or users who operate in remote regions away from convenient charging points. But a service fee, like the one currently needed to recharge the Upp cartridge, could make this an expensive way to keep your phone charged. Battery sourced power is hard to beat for convenience and low cost although it does have a tendency to lose its charge inconveniently quickly.

Will the fuel cell replace the traditional battery in the future? It’s a problem that desperately needs to be solved but at present, it seems unlikely until a cheaper option can be found to recharge it.

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