Research in Motion may be looking to fuel cell technology to power future BlackBerry handsets, suggests a recently-published patent application. In the filing — submitted last year but only just revealed by the US Patent and Trademark Office — RIM describes a method for keeping portable fuel cells in ideal operating conditions, namely maintaining a desirable temperature and level of humidity through the use of heating elements and desiccants, respectively. Traditional fuel cells will apparently freeze up if they get too cold, or choke up if it’s too humid out, resulting in degraded device performance.
Fuel cells, which mix a fuel like hydrogen and an oxidant in the presence of an electrolyte to form a power-generating electrochemical reaction, offer a number of advantages over so-called thermodynamically-closed systems like regular batteries. Besides possessing a higher power density and greater efficiency, fuel cells operate nearly silently — no so important for replacing mobile batteries, but beneficial to larger installations. The one current downside to fuel cell adoption, besides the relatively large size of the reaction-causing components, is the somewhat high cost of the technology, although that may eventually be alleviated through economies of scale.