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Apple Granted Their First Fuel Cell Patent


We posted a report yesterday titled "The Race is on to double the iPhone's Battery Life & beyond." We noted in that report that Apple had been sued by an advanced battery company called A123 Systems for "employee raiding" or poaching in February and last week Apple introduced their innovative terraced battery cell. In Apple's search for ways to extend mobile device battery life, Apple was granted a patent today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regarding fuel cell technology. According to Apple's invention, fuel cells and associated fuels can potentially achieve high volumetric and gravimetric energy densities, which could potentially enable continued operation of portable electronic devices for days or even weeks without refueling. This kind of leap could be a game changer if Apple can bring this granted patent to life.


Granted Patent: Fuel Cell System


Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to systems that use fuel cells to provide electrical power. More specifically, the disclosed embodiments relate to a fuel cell system which is designed to provide electrical power to a portable computing device.


More specifically, the invention relates to the design of a portable and cost-effective fuel cell system for a portable computing device. This fuel cell system includes a fuel cell stack which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a fuel source for the fuel cell stack and a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system. The fuel system also includes an interface to the portable computing device, wherein the interface comprises a power link that provides power to the portable computing device, and a bidirectional communication link that provides bidirectional communication between the portable computing device and the controller for the fuel cell system.


Apple specifically defines a "Portable electronic device" as corresponding to a laptop computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), portable media player, digital camera, and/or other type of compact electronic device.



Apple's patent FIG. 1B illustrates how a fuel cell system can be connected to a portable computing device.


This is Apple's first granted patent regarding fuel cell technology. Another related invention of Apple's was filed months later and you could read all about that in our report titled "The Race is on for Next Generation Fuel Cell Powered Devices."


Apple credits Bradley Spare, Vijay Iyer, Jean Lee, Michael Hillman and David Simon as the inventors of granted patent 8,980,491 which was originally filed in Q3 2010 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.


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