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Apple won their Third Granted Patent Regarding Future Devices Powered by Fuel Cell Energy

1 cover fuel cell patent report

 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 63 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's third granted patent regarding systems that use fuel cells to provide electrical power. More specifically, the patent relates to a fuel cell system which is designed to provide electrical power to a portable computing device via an external connection such as USB-C.

 

Apple's patent FIG. 1A below illustrates a fuel cell system; FIG. 1B illustrates how a fuel cell system can be connected to a portable computing device; FIG. 3 presents a flow chart illustrating how a portable computing device can control a fuel cell system.

 

2 fuel cell technology  Apple granted patent figures

 

Other sites covering today's granted patent are simply rehashing what's been known for over a decade. What this granted patent is really about, is Apple winning a patent for their latest round of patent claims and nothing more.

 

Their last granted patent that was published in March 2015 carried 20 patent claims with the entire focus being on "The fuel cell system."

 

Today's granted patent covers 13 all-new patent claims with the focus being on "The Portable Computing Device." 

 

The All-New 13 Patent Claim Extension 

 

Note that the 13 new claims presented below represent an extension to the original patent claims and not a replacement. The emphasis presented on some of the claims in bold print or yellow highlighter below were added by Patently Apple.  

 

  1. A portable computing device configured to control an external fuel cell system, the portable computing device comprising: a processor; a memory; and an interface to the external fuel cell system, wherein the interface comprises, a power link that provides power from the external fuel cell system to the portable computing device; and a communication link that provides communication between the portable computing device and a controller for the external fuel cell system; wherein the memory stores instructions that when executed by the processor cause the portable computing device to: receive fuel cell state information from the external fuel cell system through the communication link; send fuel cell control information to the external fuel cell system through the communication link.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1, wherein the fuel cell state information specifies one or more of the following: how much power is available from the fuel cell system; a state-of-charge of an internal rechargeable battery within the fuel cell system.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1 wherein the fuel cell state information specifies one or more of a temperature of the fuel cell stack, a pressure at an inlet of the fuel cell stack, and a pressure at an outlet of the fuel cell stack.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1 wherein the fuel cell state information specifies a cell voltage for one or more cells in the fuel cell stack.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1 wherein the fuel cell state information specifies an amount of fuel remaining in the external fuel cell system.
  2. The portable computing device of claim 1, wherein the fuel cell control information specifies one or more of the following: a request for a specified amount of power from the fuel cell system; a fuel cell stack current to be pulled off a fuel cell stack within the fuel cell system.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1 wherein the fuel cell control information specifies a fan speed within the fuel cell system.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 7 wherein the fuel cell control information includes a command to run diagnostics for the fuel cell system.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1, wherein the power link comprises a wireless link.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 1, wherein the communication link comprises a wireless link.
  2. The portable computing device of claim 1, wherein the communication link also communicates: computing device state information from the portable computing device to the fuel cell system; and computing device control information from the fuel cell system to the portable computing device.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 11, wherein the computing device state information specifies one or more of the following: a power requirement for the portable computing device; and a state-of-charge of a rechargeable battery within the portable computing device.
  1. The portable computing device of claim 11, wherein the computing device control information specifies a power state for the portable computing device, wherein the portable computing device uses the power state to control power usage of components within the portable computing device.

 

For interest sake, we noted in our March 2018 report on this invention, that in the summer of 2015, a British firm called Intelligent Energy, demonstrated a new iPhone 6 fuel cell that integrated seamlessly into the existing chassis as noted below that could reportedly run the device for up to a week. At that time the fuel cell didn't replace the existing lithium-ion battery, only supplemented it.

 

3 fuel cell in iPhone 6 experiment in 2015

 

Apple's latest granted patent 10,790,561 was filed in Q1 2018. The first granted patent was published in Q2 2010.

 

In 2016 TechCrunch posted a report by Garry Golden titled "Embedded fuel cells power smartphones for a week… and could run the world."

 

The report noted that "We may be entering the early days of refueling products to gain longer performance and freedom from cords and electric sockets. Beyond powering our devices 10 times longer than batteries, this refueling model of personal power systems might also set the stage for a “leapfrog” energy scenario that brings billions of people into the age of electricity by delivering clean fuels to retail shelves."

 

No roadmap for rethinking portable energy has been made public yet, but by taking a deep look at positioning by industry players and consumer frustration with batteries, we might expect first-generation fuel cells embedded in smartphones and laptops within the next five years.

 

Looking to the future, TechCrunch envisioned something like this being written about Apple shift to fuel cells:

 

"September 2020: Apple CEO Ashton Kutcher announces embedded fuel cell for iPhone 10. The audience commends the elegant design of Apple iFuel dispensers and H2 cartridges — ignoring the fact that Apple will now make an estimated $85 a year per consumer to refuel their devices.  Apple fans rejoice and say the premium is worth the convenience to only refuel devices twice a month."

 

Well, of course, that humorous forecast never came to be. I'm still laughing at the thought of Apple CEO Kutcher.  

 

10.52FX - Granted Patent Bar

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