Recharging your MacBook or iPhone may soon take mere seconds if a new fuel cell patent by Apple sees implementation. The new patent describes a liquid or compressed hydrogen fuel system that would allow quick recharging of devices by merely replacing an empty cartridge with a filled one.
British firm Intelligent Energy had previously announced a prototype iPhone 6 using their design that incorporates a hydrogen-powered fuel cell, which was capable of powering the device for one week. The prototype was created without alteration to the phone’s form or function, but vents were added to the case’s rear in order to allow water vapor to escape, a byproduct of hydrogen fuel cells. Whether or not water vapor would have any adverse effect on the device’s performance was not specified.
The technology could use a variety of vehicles for hydrogen, from lithium hydride to sodium borohydride, which could be combined with water or used in their pure forms. A device with this function could potentially run for weeks, given sufficient fuel. There may also be no need for a battery at all, which could be replaced with a capacitor that would supply power during the switching of fuel cartridges.
The mere mention of a new patent acquisition by a technology giant such as Apple does not necessarily mean big changes are coming to device design, however. These patents are also a strategy of maintaining competitive advantage by using the technology in house, or preventing competitors from doing the same. The company has filed numerous patents concerning fuel cell technology in recent years.
The patent announcement does come following recent news from Tsinghua University of Beijing and MIT, where researchers have discovered a method to quadruple the life cycle of current batteries using a new anode design. This discovery will definitely see implementation, because it does not change the fundamental interface between a device and its battery.