Apple has applied for a new patent that could see its MacBooks last for days, if not weeks without the need for an external power source. The technology, based on fuel cells, is likely quite a way from being made available in a consumer product.
While the patent itself does not actually mention the device that it is talking about, the reference to a MagSafe connector certainly points to MacBook computers being the target for the new technology, rather than iPhones or iPads.
With fuel cells requiring refueling once spent, the patent makes allowances for cartridges to be inserted into the MacBook in order to replenish them, with these cartridges containing refueling components, according to the patent application. Following is a quote from the patent application that lists all the possible combinations of fuel and oxidizing agents that could be used with the cells:
The fuel source comprises at least one of: sodium borohydride and water; sodium silicate and water; lithium hydride and water; magnesium hydride and water; lithium borohydride and water; lithium aluminum hydride and water; aluminum hydride; an amine borane complex; a hydrocarbon; lithium aluminum hydride; magnesium borohydride; a magnesium borohydride-amine complex; compressed hydrogen gas; and liquid hydrogen.
The magic behind fuel cells is complex, and the conventional wisdom doing the rounds right now is that Apple would combine the new technology with existing battery components, allowing devices to run off conventional batteries for the most part, but switching to fuel cell technology should extended use away from a power source be required.
It might not be a coincidence that the filing comes only a couple weeks after a rumor suggested that Apple was working with a British company called Intelligent Power to create a long-lasting hydrogen-based power source for the iPhone.
At this point, it’s important to remind everyone that Apple throws a lot of patents at the wall and not all of them stick. There’s little doubt that Apple and its competitors are working on new ways of powering their mobile technology, and while this patent is promising, we wouldn’t want to put any sort of time scale on when a fuel-cell-equipped MacBook will hit stores.
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