A fuel cell you can take on board an aircraft
At the end of 2009 Toshiba launched their fuel cell device in Japan. There is no indication as to whether Toshiba will make it available outside Japan, but what does it offer?
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.
Toshiba claim that passengers should be able to take these devices on board aircraft, even with the stringent conditions in place about passengers boarding aircraft with liquids. One has to believe that Toshiba discussed the concept with the relevant authorities prior to expensive development work on the product.
On September 24, 2007, the US Department of Transportation issued a proposal to allow airline passengers to carry fuel cell cartridges on board. The Department of Transportation issued a final ruling on April 30, 2008, permitting passengers and crew to carry an approved fuel cell with an installed methanol cartridge and up to two additional spare cartridges.
The fuel cell costs about £220 in Japan, plus another £23 for a set of five, 50ml fuel cartridges. The first production run was limited to 3 000 units in order to gauge consumer reaction.