Japan's DoCoMo planning to develop phones powered by fuel cells

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile phone company, plans to buy a large stake in a fuel-cell maker to develop handsets with longer-lasting hydrogen-powered batteries that are friendly to the environment, an Associated Press report said.

According to the report, Tokyo-based NTT DoCoMo said it would buy a 36.5% stake in Aquafairy through newly issued shares.

Both companies were already developing a micro fuel-cell re-charger for DoCoMo's latest 3G FOMA handsets based on Aquafairy's hydrogen fuel-cell technology, the report said.

The move came as DoCoMo and other mobile phone companies looked for ways to extend talking hours and standby times as they packed new gadgets with power-hungry features like the video, Internet and digital camera capabilities found in FOMA, the report further said.

Because fuel cells generated power, instead of simply storing it, by combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, the technology could overcome limitations of other batteries, such as the presence of hazardous metals or chemicals, the report said.

The arrival of fuel cells would eliminate the need for lithium ion batteries, which had been the subject of recalls by laptop makers Dell and Apple after a few fires involving improperly manufactured batteries, the report further said.

But fuel cells must still overcome such hurdles as water diffusion, a byproduct of electricity generation, and the handling of highly flammable hydrogen before they could be commercially successful in consumer electronics, the report added.

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