A California company, named “Power Air” wants to introduce a fuel cell to the market next year. It has the size of a BlackBerry, and uses zinc as a fuel to charge your gadgets.
Their fuel cell wants to be an alternative to lithium-ion batteries or hydrogen fuel cells (I doubt the latter). Basically, it produces electrical current by exposing the zinc to oxygen in the air. The company’s plans are not little at all: their next step is to build backup generators and mobile power sources for boats and vehicles.
The first product they’re going to commercialize is called ZAFC Powerpack, and they’ll introduce it to the market and the Consumer Electronics Show next January.
The zinc’s battery working principle is illustrated in the following picture:
Some energy experts argue that zinc-air technology has many advantages over existing battery technologies and that zinc is a better energy source than, say, lithium.
“Zinc is already used in many products, including batteries, and it is abundant. It has high energy density, which means that batteries or fuel cells can pack more power into a given space compared to other batteries based on other chemistries. It’s also safe, and the material can be recycled”, said Don Ceci, Power Air’s CEO.
Power Air’s zinc-air power supply will cost about $20 and include adapters for common devices, such as iPhones and 3G mobile phones. Consumers will be able to return the fuel cartridges for recycling and purchase new ones for between $10 and $20, Ceci said.
The company now has a prototype zinc-air power pack that is expected to store between 15 watt-hours and 20 watt-hours, the equivalent of between 7 and 10 full charges for a device:
Some say that because of the high lithium demand, this resource is going to end sometime soon, and, if hydrogen fuel cells industry is not well-prepared for the handover, zinc is the next best thing to it.
Anyway, I still believe than hydrogen alone remains the key element in solving a long energy crisis, and until the market isn’t configured correctly to use hydrogen both financially and technically, we’ll all be polluting our dear atmosphere with Hummers.