Toshiba Corporation has developed two prototype direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) units and begun tests to validate their operation with mobile audio players. Each unit integrates the DMFC that Toshiba announced in June 2004, the world’s smallest, bringing its practical use a step closer.

The new fuel cell units have an output power of 100mW and 300mW and have been applied to a flash-memory-based digital audio player and an HDD-based digital audio player, respectively.

The 100mW unit, similar in shape and size to a packet of chewing gum at 23mm x 75mm x 10mm, can power the flash-based player for approximately 35 hours on a single 3.5ml charge of highly concentrated methanol, the fuel that drives the electricity producing chemical reaction in the fuel cell.

The 300mW unit is 60mm x 75mm x 10mm and delivers enough power to keep an HDD-based audio player running for approximately 60 hours on a single 10ml charge.

Toshiba’s DMFC features a passive fuel supply system that is suited to smaller fuel cells and use with a highly concentrated methanol solution.

Fuel cells usually mix methane with water in a concentration of less than 30%, a dilution that supports generating efficiency but which requires a fuel tank that is much too big for portable equipment. Through durability and reliability tests with the new units, Toshiba aims to accelerate technology enhancements, including development of production technology, to support integration of DMFC into commercial products that are expected to appear in 2007.

The two prototype players and their methanol cartridges will be exhibited at the CEATEC Japan 2005 which will be held at Makuhari Messe, ChibaPrefecture, from October 4 to 8, 2005.