Energy on the edge: Can fuel cells replace batteries?

| Print |  Email
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
{safe_alt_text}

THE SITUATION

The world is increasingly moving to wireless sensors for everything from water and gas meters to shipping container tracking devices to temperature sensors in industrial freezers (read: Wal-Mart). Over their decades-long life, these devices require several rounds of batteries, which are inexpensive, and labor to physically replace them, which isn’t.

THE NEW TECHNOLOGY

WiSPI.net, co-founded by Portlander Doug Morris, would replace these batteries with a fuel cell about the size of a coin. Fed by a small tube of methanol, the WiSPI.net fuel cell charges up an attached battery that runs the larger wireless device. During the device’s downtime, the fuel cell recharges the battery. The fuel cell setup lasts for 25 years, or the theoretical life of most wireless sensors. Morris estimates the $60 initial cost of WiSPI.net’s fuel cell to be five times cheaper than the best battery system.

DOES IT HAVE JUICE?

Morris, who spent 20 years at Motorola and seven in their energy systems group, has a solid technology developed under a Department of Defense DARPA grant at Georgia Tech.  “They have a real competitive advantage in powering devices that aren’t easy to get to,” says Wayne Embree, a venture capitalist at Cascadia Partners.

WiSPI.net’s big hurdle now is proving its fuel cell in rigorous testing, before utilities — the company’s first target customers — agree to switch over hundreds of thousands of wireless reading meters to the new technology. But for the same reason, the potential payoff in landing one utility account is huge. Morris estimates the market for wireless power will be $5 billion by 2010. First, he must track down $1 millon for prototypes to test to utility standards.

— Oakley Brooks


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

More Articles

5 things to know about veterans in the workforce

The Latest
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
070215-vetsthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are more than 10 million former military members working in the United States.


Read more...

The Green Paradox

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY EMILY LIEDEL

Inside the topsy-turvy world of corporate sustainability rankings.


Read more...

Marijuana law ushers in new business age

The Latest
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
062315panelthumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.


Read more...

Downtime with John Helmick

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital.


Read more...

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS