DoCoMo to acquire stake in fuel-cell firm

14 Sep 2006

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.

Tokyo-based NTT DoCoMo Inc. said it will buy a 36.5% stake in Aquafairy through newly issued shares. Both companies are already developing a micro fuel cell re-charger for DoCoMo's latest 3G FOMA handsets based on Aquafairy's hydrogen fuel cell technology. This week's announcement is likely to deepen their collaboration.

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

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

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

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 can be commercially successful in consumer electronics.

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