“PolyFuel, for instance, a spinoff of SRI International, is working on fuel cells for portable devices. The cells essentially break down methanol molecules into protons, electrons and carbon dioxide. While the protons pass through a specialized membrane, the electrons can’t and get shuffled into a wire powering a cell phone or laptop. The byproducts from the chemical reaction come together as water molecules.
"You are building a miniature power production facility. You are producing electricity out of chemicals," Rocke said. It’s also safer than a close chemical relative, he said. "You can get power out of these things below the flammability point of methanol." The replaceable fuel cartridges initially will last two to three times longer than batteries but eventually last 10 times longer. Notebooks containing fuel cells will begin to arrive in late 2004 to 2005, he said. Another fuel cell company, MTI MicroFuel Cells, gives the same projection. Rather than replace batteries, other companies are looking to supplement them with supercapacitors, a concept for storing electricity at the chip level first aired in Japanese academic journals in the late 1980s.”