Apple MacBook or iPad models could be powered by hydrogen fuel cells in the future as the tech giant looks to improve battery life.
The California-based company last week (29th Sep) lodged a patent application covering the “design of a portable and cost-effective fuel cell system for a portable computing device”.
It specifically mentions “proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells” that use hydrogen as a fuel.
“The hydrogen may be catalytically split into protons and electrons at the anode of each PEM fuel cell,” Apple wrote in the patent application.
“The protons may pass through an electrically insulating membrane electrode assembly (MEA) to the cathode of the PEM fuel cell, while the electrons may travel through a load to the cathode.”
“The protons and electrons may then react with oxygen atoms at the cathode to form water molecules as a waste product.”
Hydrogen produced by a thermolysis technique and as a pure fuel (compressed hydrogen gas or liquid hydrogen) are also mentioned in the patent.
Apple points to environmental and political concerns as the reasons for finding alternative fuel sources.
“Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling,” Apple says in the application.
“These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources.”
“As a consequence of this increased consumer awareness, electronics manufacturers have become very interested in developing renewable energy sources for their products, and they have been exploring a number of promising renewable energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells.”
“Hydrogen fuel cells have a number of advantages. Such fuel cells and associated fuels can potentially achieve high volumetric and gravimetric energy densities, which can potentially enable continued operation of portable electronic devices for days or even weeks without refuelling.”
However, Apple says it is extremely challenging to design hydrogen fuel cell systems which are sufficiently portable and cost-effective to be used with portable electronic devices.