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Posted: November 2, 2009

Caltech Licenses Patented Micro Fuel Cell Technology to Viaspace Subsidiary

(Nanowerk News) VIASPACE Inc., an alternative energy company providing products and technology for renewable, clean energy, announced that new technology enabling fuel cells for micro applications has been patented under U.S. Patent Number 7,585,577 "Monopolar Fuel Cell Stack Coupled Together Without Use of Top or Bottom Cover Plates or Tie Rods."
The patent was issued to Caltech, which licensed it exclusively to VIASPACE subsidiary Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation (DMFCC). The inventors are Sekharipuram R. Narayanan and Thomas I. Valdez, both with the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the direct methanol fuel cell was invented.
The new patent application is related to monopolar fuel cell stacks. Traditionally, direct fuel cells stacked unit cells vertically like slices of bread in a loaf. Monopolar stacks use the same unit cells, but the "bread slices" can be laid horizontally next to each other. This allows for a thinner fuel cell that is more suitable for many micro applications like mobile phones. The patent states that "the new stack design offers two-to-three fold improvement in power densities, suitable for manufacturing, uses inexpensive plastic materials, and straightforward to troubleshoot and assemble. Such a stack design will substantially improve the commercialization of portable direct methanol fuel cell power sources."
The new patent follows previously awarded U.S. Patent Number 6,680,139 "Reduced Size Fuel Cell for Portable Applications," and U.S. Patent Number 6,756,145 "Electrode and Interconnect for Miniature Fuel Cells Using Direct Methanol Feed."
VIASPACE and DMFCC Chief Executive Dr. Carl Kukkonen remarked: "This new patent adds significant value to our intellectual property portfolio. It will be difficult for any company to go to market with direct methanol fuel cells for micro applications, or other applications for that matter, without first obtaining protection under the Caltech patents which we have licensed."
Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation holds an extensive and comprehensive portfolio of direct methanol fuel cell patents licensed from Caltech as well as the University of Southern California. The patents cover the direct methanol fuel cell concept, technology that makes the science practical for use, and important processes related to manufacturing. Several patents are considered fundamental and blocking.
"Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation is focusing on disposable fuel cartridges that provide the fuel source for direct methanol fuel cells," Kukkonen stated. "As previously announced, we are partnered with Samsung and are also working under confidentiality agreements with other companies. Strategically, we are engaging in opportunities to apply our intellectual property and patents in order to help develop the direct methanol fuel cell market."
In a related development, on October 22, 2009, IDG News Service reported that "After years of prototypes and promises that the technology was just around the corner, Toshiba has become the first major consumer electronics maker to launch a device using direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology. The Dynario, a charger that can replenish [recharge] the batteries in gadgets like cell phones and digital cameras via USB, went on sale on Thursday on Toshiba's Web store. The charger is about the same thickness and width as a cell phone, although it is slightly longer than most phones at 15 centimeters. A single 50-milliliter charge of methanol will enable it to recharge a cell phone twice. The next step for Toshiba will be gadgets with embedded fuel cells. Earlier this month at Ceatec 2009 one of its DMFCs was on display inside a cellular telephone but both Toshiba and Japanese carrier KDDI, which was demonstrating the phone, gave no estimate for its release. Toshiba didn't disclose any plans to sell the charger overseas."
To date, Caltech's direct methanol fuel cell patents have been issued in the United States, Korea and other countries but not yet in Japan.
About VIASPACE Inc.
VIASPACE is an alternative energy company providing products and technology for renewable and clean energy that reduce or eliminate dependence on fossil and high-pollutant energy sources. The Company provides raw material for cellulosic biofuels and develops and markets fuel cell cartridges, products and technology. VIASPACE subsidiary Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation owns a portfolio of fuel cell patents licensed from Pasadena-based California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which manages NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the direct methanol fuel cell was invented.
Source: VIASPACE (press release)
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