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MTI, Korean UMPC Maker Tie on Fuel-cell Development

Fuel-cell developer MTI Micro and a South Korean electronics company plan to jointly develop a fuel-cell powered ultra portable PC, they said Thursday.

New York-based MTI will work with Seoul-based NeoSolar, which already has an ultra portable computer on the market in Korea under the "Wibrain" brand, on using MTI's Mobion direct methanol fuel cell technology (DMFC) in its products.

"Initially it will focus on ultra mobile PCs," said Peng Lim [cq], CEO of MTI Micro. "But they do plan other types of digital devices and in the future it could cover other kinds of products."

DMFCs produce electricity from a reaction between methanol, water and air. The only by-products of the reaction are a small amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide, so the fuel cells are typically seen as a much greener form of energy than traditional batteries. A big advantage of DMFCs is that they can be replenished with a new cartridge of methanol in seconds.

Prototypes have been shown by several companies over the past few years but none have yet made it to market.

Earlier this year MTI demonstrated a cell phone and digital camera with an embedded DMFC. It also demonstrated a fuel-cell powered recharger that could be used to replenish the battery in a wider range of portable products without the need for a connection to the electrical grid.

For MTI, which is moving fast towards commercialization, the agreement marks its third with a consumer electronics company. The first deal was with Samsung Electronics and covered fuel cells for mobile phones. In May it signed a development deal with a major but unnamed Japanese camera maker for a fuel-cell powered digital camera.

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