Teensy fuel cells offer greener power sources for small gadgets

Yes, yes, your new iPod nano is very cool. But wouldn’t it be just that much cooler if you could recharge it with a small bottle of clear liquid? It might happen: Toshiba and other Japanese electronics firms are developing itty-bitty fuel cells to juice up portable gadgets. Unlike batteries, fuel cells contain few hazardous chemicals and metals and generate rather than just store electricity. Toshiba says its fuel cells for cell phones will run about twice as long as the average lithium-ion battery and recharge on the run with methanol. Developers say perfecting such small-scale applications is a step toward figuring out how to economically use fuel cells for bigger applications like cars and homes. “We’re starting with as small an application as we can and keeping costs low,” says Toshiba tech chief Fumio Ueno, whose lab has developed the world’s smallest fuel cell to date. “We think it’s better to start that way and grow into larger applications.”