Frequently Asked Questions about Toshiba Fuel Cell Technology
1. What is a Direct Methanol Fuel Cell?
A fuel cell is a small power generator that converts the chemical energy of fuel, such as
methanol, into electric energy. Unlike batteries, which require recharging, fuel cells can
continuously produce electricity as long as there is a constant fuel supply. Direct
Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC) can provide a new energy concept for personal electronic
devices such as notebook PCs, cellular phones or wearable electronic devices like
digital audio players and headsets.
2. When did Toshiba begin research on direct methanol fuel cells? What are some of
Toshiba’s notable achievements and milestones in this field?
Toshiba has conducted R&D on both active and passive fuel cells since the early 1990s,
and has filed and obtained many patents on DMFC technology. Its achievements
confirm that the company remains in the forefront in developing the potential of fuel
Toshiba led the industry by demonstrating the first DMFC for portable PCs in
In June 2004, Toshiba announced a prototype of the world’s smallest DMFC
with energy output of 100 milliwatts (mW), which could be integrated into
devices as small as digital audio players and wireless headsets for mobile
phones. This new device adopted a “passive” fuel supply system which fed
methanol directly into the cell.
In 2005, Guinness World Records certified this achievement. In October 2005,
Toshiba exhibited a portable battery charger and cell phone jointly developed
with KDDI and demonstrated conceptual products, such as a portable music
player, at the CEATEC Japan trade show.
In January 2007 at CES, Toshiba exhibited a notebook PC with a smaller,
lighter, built-in prototype DMFC unit that realized an average output of 10W or
more. By using smaller and thinner parts, Toshiba was able to install the DMFC
inside the PC. This prototype is designed to operate for approximately 5 hours
from a 70cc cartridge, but