Neah Power Systems, Inc., an emerging leader in direct methanol micro fuel cell technology, today unveiled its product design roadmap and announced the addition of several senior business executives. Neah Power is developing a small, compact fuel cell to power mobile electronics products, such as notebook PCs and advanced communications gear. The technical foundation of Neah Power’s compact fuel cell is centered upon a patent-pending silicon-based design architecture that is expected to enable high levels of efficiency and high power densities in small physical form-factors. In addition, the company recently appointed David Dorheim as its president and chief executive officer. Dorheim, a veteran of General Electric Co. with over two decades of battery industry experience, joins recently appointed board members Peter Schwartz, co-founder and chairman of Global Business Network and a renowned business strategist and author, and Len Jordan, a seasoned high-tech executive most recently with RealNetworks, Inc.
The “Power Gap”
Given the limitations of traditional batteries, a critical “power gap” for mobile electronics exists today and may continue to grow in years to come, contributing to compromises in design and usage behavior of these devices. Notebook PCs and other portable electronic devices are becoming more powerful and full-featured and, consequently, are demanding more power. With the advent of persistent wireless connections such as Wi-Fi, portable products also may be used for longer periods of time, disconnected from AC power.
“As consumer demand rises for increasingly sophisticated applications in portable devices, such as color screens, infotainment, increased character recognition and enhanced mobile experiences such as visuals and sounds, pressure builds for more and more power,” said Dr. Brian Barnett, Director of Advanced Battery Technology at TIAX LLC (formerly Arthur D Little’s Technology & Innovation business). “Today’s lithium-ion rechargeable batteries are now reaching the fundamental limit imposed by the active electrode materials presently used. Because devices are rapidly evolving and requiring ever-higher levels of energy density, we need to continue identifying next generation materials that can meet the energy needs.”
Neah Power’s Patent-Pending Silicon-Based Design Architecture
Neah Power aims to achieve breakthrough performance by enabling all-day notebook computing on a single “charge,” a two to three times improvement in energy storage capacity versus today’s rechargeable batteries. Challenges inherent in traditional PEM-based micro fuel cell design – including low efficiencies and power densities, large size, and high cost – are expected to be overcome with Neah Power’s innovative and patent-pending silicon-based design. A porous silicon substrate allows for high levels of electro-chemical activity and electricity generation, which is expected to result in higher levels of efficiency and much higher power densities when compared with traditional PEM-based designs.
The practical result is that Neah Power’s fuel cell has the potential to be much smaller than PEM-based designs and fit within, not outside of, a notebook PC’s internal battery cavity.
Neah Power also believes the potential market for its technology is sizable. According to ZDNet, there were approximately 30 million notebook PCs shipped in 2002, about one out of every four PCs shipped. Market share of notebook PCs is expected to grow even larger in years to come.
“We believe that PC companies will be able to meet the extended power needs of millions of notebook users with Neah Power’s fuel cell,” said Dave Dorheim, President and CEO. “We feel very strongly that our silicon design architecture is powerful, pragmatic, flexible, and scalable. Most importantly, our technology also can be applied to multiple product categories – wherever there’s an acute power need.”
“Neah Power’s silicon-based design and architecture is the most promising development I’ve seen in this space and one that appears truly scalable,” said Rick Doherty, Director, The Envisioneering Group, a market research and consulting firm specializing in digital technology. “It has the potential to be a truly disruptive technology.”