Energy on the edge: Can fuel cells replace batteries?

| Print |  Email
Archives - August 2006
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

Living the dream

News
Friday, August 21, 2015

smugglespearsthumbRenee Spears, founder and owner of Portland-based Rose City Mortgage, is hot to trot to sell pot.


Read more...

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Reader Input: School Choice

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

Flattery with Numbers

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The false promise of economic impact statements.


Read more...

5 questions for ImpactFlow CEO Tyler Foreman

The Latest
Thursday, August 13, 2015
impactflowthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.


Read more...

Reader Input: Fair Play

May 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Former Governor John Kitzhaber's resignation in February prompted some soul searching in this state about ethical behavior in industry and government.


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