Alternative Energy

Micro Fuel Cell

Manhattan Scientifics provided seed funding to former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Robert Hockaday, who has developed a flat printed fuel cell designed to provide an "always on" energy source to power micro-electronics such as cellular telephones and pagers. Manhattan Scientifics owns the worldwide right to the patented technology. To date, the micro fuel cell has not been commercialized.

How It Works

Micro Fuel Cell


MicroFuel Cell "Basics The MicroFuel Cell" is a small device that produces electricity from hydrogen, or hydrogen bearing fuels, and air. We have been pursuing two fuel sources for small devices: chemical hydrides that make hydrogen on demand, and methanol. In both fuel sources the fuel is broken down into protons from the hydrogen atoms on the electrodes. In the direct methanol fuel cell it takes a methanol/water mixture at the anode and breaks it down into protons, CO2, and electrons. The electrons travel through an external circuit to provide electrical work. The protons are transported across an electrolyte to the cathode where they combine with oxygen from the air to form pure water. The two main advantages of our technology are:

Micro Fuel Cell

Performance - Using methanol as fuel provides the energy required for the extended battery life. The energy density of methanol fuel is up to 30 times that of the best rechargeable batteries available today, but at lower power densities. The chemical hydride's energy density could be roughly 20 times the best rechargeable batteries, but have the advantage of higher power density of 10-100 times those obtained when using methanol. They could match or exceed batteries in power per unit mass.

Micro Fuel Cell

Cost - Our devices are made using the same materials and miniaturization technologies that are extensively used in the semiconductor industry to manufacture inexpensive silicon chips. These designs and methods of manufacturing ultimately will lead to the lowest cost production of fuel cells. We have made a priority of integrating the technology into product designs that are easy to use and adapt to the products already used by consumers. Some concept designs are shown in the last page of this document. We have also built working prototypes in our laboratories.


  • 11/4/98 - First MicroFuel Cell powered cellular telephone calls using a Nokia 6190 cellular telephone. Demonstrated a direct alcohol fuel cell that can provide 120% of the power for a cellular telephone continuously in standby mode with a battery voltage buffer.
  • 7/31/99 - Built a system prototype that provided at least 120% of standby power within case of similar dimensions to existing cellular phone battery packs. Enabled the cellular phone to make at least 15 minutes of calls within a 24 hour period.
  • 2/3/00 - Test device achieved a specific energy output three times greater than standard lithium ion batteries currently used for cellular telephones (300Watt*hrs/kg). The current levels are 400 Watt*hr/kg with test cells running at ambient conditions on methanol fuel.
  • 1/22/01 - Achieved 0.29 Watt output with a 16 cell array (19cm2) with a single substrate using hydrogen.
  • 2/6/01 - Achieved 0.24 Watt output with a four cell array (29cm2) using a sodium borohydride flat pack. This is a new, safe hydrogen source that adapts to the MicroFuel Cell. From tests with ampoule cells we have achieved a 5.7% hydrogen yield by weight with chemical hydride ampoules. This translates to a theoretical system estimate of 940 Watt*hr/kg (0.6V/cell).
  • 3/15/01 - Working Power Holster prototype tested over a six-month period. The main achievements were: ability to go from test to prototype device, running a cellular phone on standby for 69 hours over a two-week period with less than an ounce of methanol fuel, and no loss of peak power performance observed.
  • 2/04/04 - Developing a wide temperature and fuel range (0-200°C) MicroFuel Cell for small applications.
  • 9/13/04 - Continuous running endurance test exceeded 1000 days with four MicroFuel Cell test cells and diffusion delivered methanol ampoule. The milliwatt power output is running a flashing LED. The cumulative average delivered specific energy is 180Watt*hr/kg of fuel, matching the performance of the best commercial lithium ion batteries.

Micro-Fuel Cell Patents

Owned by Manhattan Scientifics

Manhattan Scientifics also owns the following Solar Patent:

US5482568: Micro Mirror Photovoltaic Cells