Methane-powered laptops: They're a gas!

Intel to play its 'trump' card?
Written by CNET Networks, Contributor

Intel to play its 'trump' card?

By Michael Kanellos The laptop of the future will be smaller, lighter, capable of making cellular calls on its own and powered by methane. The pending design changes for notebooks are being driven by one of the most influential forces in the technology industry - people are actually buying them. In the second quarter, notebook sales grew 6.1 per cent. Unlike desktops, though, notebooks have to more acutely adapt to contradictory demands in the marketplace. Customers want large screens, fast processors and beefy hard drives. At the same time, they want long battery life, a notebook that measures less than an inch thick and a carrying weight less than four pounds - features that aren't easy to achieve in a high-voltage lap warmer. In an attempt to harness alternative power sources Intel has invested in companies such as PolyFuel, which is working on fuel cells for portable devices. The cells essentially break methane down into protons, electrons and carbon dioxide. While the protons pass through a specialised membrane, the electrons can't and get shuffled into a wire powering a cell phone or laptop. Mike Rocke, the strategic investment manager for the mobile products group inside Intel Capital, the chipmaking giant's venture capital arm, said: "You are building a miniature power production facility. You are producing electricity out of chemicals." It's also safe. Rocke said: "You can get power out of these things below the flammability point of the methanol." The replaceable fuel cartridges initially will last two to three times longer than batteries but will eventually last 10 times longer. Notebooks containing fuel cells will begin to arrive in late 2004 to 2005, he said. Michael Kanellos writes for ZDNet.com
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