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Dec 25, 2009

Panasonic Develops Direct Methanol Fuel Cell System With High Power Output and Durability

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell System 20W

(Direct Methanol Fuel Cell System 100W 49KB)

100 W-class portable generator to be developed and field tested in fiscal 2012

Osaka, Japan - Panasonic Corporation today announced it has developed a direct methanol fuel cell system[1] which can produce an average power output of 20 W by increasing the output per cubic centimeter twice that of its previous prototype[2]. Using this technology, Panasonic aims to develop a 100 W-class portable generator and start field testing in fiscal 2012 ending in March 2012.

Heightening environmental concerns and depletion of fossil fuels urge the development of alternative, clean energy with little greenhouse gas emissions. Great hopes are placed on the practical application of direct methanol fuel cells as an alternative, because they produce no air pollutants and significantly lower amount of CO2 than internal combustion engine generators.

In 2008 Panasonic developed compact fuel cell stacks[3] by reviewing the structure of its connecting parts. It also developed compact and energy-efficient balance of plant (BOP) systems [4] including a fuel supply pump that can directly mix and adjust the concentration of methanol internally. By improving the stack technology, Panasonic has successfully doubled the average power output to 20 W while retaining the same volume with the preceding prototype. The high output methanol fuel cell allows for powering feature-laden laptop computers, which have relatively high power consumption.

The new fuel cell system also boasts 5,000 hours of durability (based on eight-hour intermittent use per day). Durability was a major challenge for commercialization of fuel cells because power output drops as the electrodes deteriorate. Panasonic solved the problem by developing a technology that enables supplying high concentration fuel to the electrode[5].

Panasonic continues to work to increase output of direct methanol fuel cells, capitalizing on the above technologies that have achieved downsizing and high durability. As a next step, it plans to develop a portable generator with an average output of 100 W that will be much more compact than engine-generators. Combining the fuel cell generator with its high-capacity lithium-ion battery module, Panasonic aims to bring to market an outdoor power source that integrates energy-creation and energy-storage functions.

On the prototype fuel cell system, Panasonic holds 139 patents in Japan and 69 in other countries including pending applications.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Systems

  New Prototype Fuel Cell System Fuel Cell System to Be Developed
Application Mobile device Portable generator
Average output 20 W 100 W
Volume Approx. 360 cc Approx. 2 L (excluding fuel)
Weight Approx. 350 g (excluding fuel) Approx. 2 kg (excluding fuel)
Fuel Methanol

Explanation of Terminology

[1]Direct methanol fuel cell: A fuel cell using a methanol aqueous solution as fuel which is directly fed into the generating part. The methanol (CH3OH) and water generate hydrogen ion and CO2 at the fuel electrode as shown below. At the air electrode, the hydrogen ion which has moved from the fuel electrode reacts with oxygen to generate electrical energy and water.

Fuel electrode:
CH3OH + H2O → CO2 + 6H+ + 6e-
Air electrode: 3/2O2 + 6H+ + 6e- → 3H2O
Overall: CH3OH + 3/2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O

[2]Previous Panasonic prototypes: Displayed at the Hydrogen Energy Advanced Technology Exhibition 2008 held in Japan.

[3]Stack: The generating part of the fuel cell. A plurality of MEA (membrane electrode assembly consisting of fuel electrode, electrolyte membrane, and air electrode) are connected in series to form a fuel cell stack.

[4]BOP (Balance of Plant): General name for power generation assisting devices, such as circuits controlling the power generation and pumps supplying air and fuel.

[5]Technology enabling high concentration fuel supply to electrode
Using micro porous layers that control the amount of fuel passing through them, this technology enables supplying highly concentrated fuel to the electrode and suppressing methanol "cross-over" which wastes fuel.

About Panasonic

Panasonic Corporation is a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of electronic products for a wide range of consumer, business, and industrial needs. Based in Osaka, Japan, the company recorded consolidated net sales of 7.77 trillion yen (US$78.4 billion) for the year ended March 31, 2009. The company's shares are listed on the Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and New York (NYSE: PC) stock exchanges. For more information on the company and the Panasonic brand, visit the company's website at http://panasonic.net.

Media Contacts:

Akira Kadota, International PR
Panasonic Corporation
Tel: 03-6403-3040 Fax: 03-3436-6766
Panasonic News Bureau
Tel: 03-3542-6205 Fax: 03-3542-9018
*The content in the following news releases is accurate at the time of publication but may be subject to change without notice. Please note therefore that these documents may not always contain the most up-to-date information.

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