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Toshiba Launches Direct Methanol Fuel Cell in Japan as External Power Source for Mobile Electronic Devices

Dynario, fuel cartridge and consumer device. Click to enlarge.

Toshiba Corporation launched its first direct methanol fuel-cell product: Dynario, an external power source that delivers power to mobile digital consumer products. (Earlier post.) Dynario’s performance is optimized by its hybrid structure, which uses a lithium-ion battery charged by the fuel cell to store electricity.

Dynario, together with a dedicated fuel cartridge for refueling on the go, will be launched in Japan, in a limited edition of 3,000 units only, and will be exclusively available at Shop1048, Toshiba’s direct-order web site for digital consumer products in the Japanese market. Orders will be accepted from 22 October, and shipping will start on 29 October.

Operation of a DMFC. Source: Toshiba. Click to enlarge.

The power consumption of mobile electronic devices, including mobile phones, has greatly increased with added functionality, including TV reception and Internet connectivity. As a result, battery exhaustion has become a concern. Dynario’s DMFC delivers almost instant refueling that untethers electrical equipment from AC adapters and power outlets. It runs on mix of methanol and ambient oxygen.

Toshiba recognizes the DMFC as a high potential solution for portable equipment and is promoting intensive technology and product development, including improved practical use and downsizing . The company has conducted R&D on both active and passive fuel cells since the early 1990s. Toshiba demonstrated the first DMFC for portable PCs in March 2003.

The palm-sized Dynario is Toshiba’s first DMFC product. Once fueled with an injection of methanol solution from its dedicated cartridge, Dynario starts to generate electricity that is delivered to a digital consumer product—a mobile phone or a digital media player—via a USB cable. On a single refill of methanol which can be made in an instant period (around 20 seconds), Dynario can generate enough power to charge two typical mobile phones.

Output from the device is DC5V-400mA, The unit weighs approximately 280g without fuel, and has a fuel tank capacity of 14 mL. Operating temperature and humidity range is 10 to 25°C, from 30 to 90% relative humidity.

Each fuel cartridge has a capacity of 50 mL, and weighs approximately 92g. Toshiba is putting Dynario on sale for ¥29,800 (US$325), with a set of five fuel cartridges for ¥3,150 (US$34).

Direct Methanol Fuel Cells. A DMFC generates electricity in the following manner:

  • A methanol solution is added to the anode side of the cell;

  • The methanol solution separates into protons (H+) and electrons (e-), along with carbon dioxide (CO2);

  • The electrons (e-) are guided out of the fuel cell, forming an electric current. The current returns to the fuel cell cathode (air side);

  • Protons (H+) and electrons (e-) react with the air at the cathode to form humid air, which is exhausted from the system.

Dynario operates with only a small volume of concentrated methanol solution, thereby reducing the size and weight of the fuel tank and the overall product. A novel fuel feed structure realizes uniform methanol delivery, and stable output to any attached device is fine-tuned by a built-in microcomputer.

The dedicated fuel cartridge was co-developed with Toyo Seikan Kaisha, Ltd., one of Japan’s leading packaging container companies.

Toshiba will gauge customer reaction and opinion from the Japanese release of Dynario and reflect them in the development of future DMFC products.

(A hat-tip to Dick!)



Interesting. Depending on the other components, this device should operate well in extreme cold. Methanol doesn't freeze until -98C. Good for those Arctic events.

Alex Kovnat

I would like to see methanol fuel cell-powered cars, trucks, buses, etc. on our highways. I know purists like the idea of hydrogen, but hydrogen is difficult to transport. Methanol is transported around the country and the world all the time. So I wish Toshiba all the best with their new product.

Carlos Fandango

Very niche product. Don't fancy carrying around a bottle of methanol myself.

I prefer they focus on decreasing the power used in devices. Simplification and efficient code would be a good start.



Just cary an extra battery for whatever device is so essential.


This might be heading towards a battery/fuel cell for laptops where you just plug in a cartridge when you need more power. If you are not near an outlet, but need more computing time, push in an alcohol cartridge and continue. Many road warriors would pay a bundle for that.


Wierd is right...not something that the masses will embrace overnight.

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