Intel Backing Fuel Cell Portable Charger

Lilliputian System’s fuel-cell portable charger — about the size of a deck of cards and intended to power up small electronics like cells phones and iPods — appears closer to reality.  The company announced an investment and manufacturing deal with Intel in which the chip giant gets an undisclosed stake in Lilliputian and supplies silicon wafers for the device.

Explaining the move in a press release, Brian Krzanich, Intel’s senior vice president for manufacturing and supply chain, said the company “recognizes that portable power solutions will be essential to consumer electronics.” The question will be whether the Lilliputian device answers that need.

Lilliputian portable fuel-cell charger

image via Lilliputian Systems

The device reportedly would produce around three watts of energy using a solid-oxide fuel cell to convert butane from a replaceable cartridge into electricity. Lilliputian said the combination of a chip-based power generator with high-energy fuel cartridges is relatively green, having a carbon footprint one-sixth that of a wall charger. And the company said the cell is five to 10 times more powerful by volume and 20 to 40 times more powerful by weight than a lithium-ion battery. That would dramatically boost the staying power of a cell phone or PDA.

Still, it’s a device, albeit a small one, to carry around in order to power your small device, and consumer acceptance of that concept is mostly untested. One pretty important factor in its favor: Lilliputian said the Federal Aviation Administration has OK’d the device, with its butane cartridges, for air travel.

Looking for green gadget gift ideas for this holiday season? We have you covered with our annual Green Gadgets Holiday Gift Guide – check it out now!

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.