Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Enhanced Efficiency of Direct Methanol Fuel Cells(ST6872-1)

Mechanical Technology, Inc.


MTI MicroFuel Cells, Inc. is a subsidiary of Mechanical Technology, Inc. (MTI), a company that has spent the last 30 years in energy research and product development, including fuel cell technologies for residential power generation. Very recently, MTI formed MicroFuel Cells to focus on developing fuel cells for portable applications including cell phones, laptops, personal digital assistants, and similar devices.

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Project Description

The DMFC is a low-temperature fuel cell that directly converts methanol to electric power. The only liquids in the cell are methanol and water. No "free" acid or other electrolyte is required, making the system safe for consumer electronics. While the technology promises significant energy and environmental benefits, both in portable power applications and in scaled-up, derivative applications, technical barriers require resolution prior to commercial implementation. When fully developed, the DMFC Power Pack has the potential of extending the time between recharging/refueling of a mobile telephone from a few days to a full month in the same sized package as a lithium battery, making an immediate impact on the portable power market. The project object is to develop a cost-competitive power source within a three-year time period, based on the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology to serve as an alternative to batteries for portable electronic devices. This project will mainly focus on the two remaining hurdles: achieving a higher DMFC energy conversion efficiency by applying two complementary technical approaches to minimize methanol cross over, and providing an internal water management scheme to achieve system simplification. The second phase of the project reflects a critical phase in MTI's DMFC technology efforts, which moves the technology to product launch readiness. Phase Three goals are focused on product launch readiness validation and testing, including re


This project includes energy benefits in the form of using less oil, environmental benefits because DMFCs are less harmful to the environment than batteries, and additional economic development benefits to New York State. The market for portable sustainable power is enormous. As an example, mobile phone sales alone are about $7 billion a year.

Project Results

The three-phase project was successful in advancing the technology and developing prototype direct methanol fuel cells for small hand-held device applications.


Mechanical Technology, Inc.
MTI MicroFuel Cells, Inc. 431 New Karner Road
Albany, NY 12205

Principle Investigator

Chuck Carlstrom

Universities Involved


Project Type:

Product Development

Technologies Types:

Energy Power Supply
Fuel Cell

NYSERDA Contact Information

Frank Ralbovsky


R&D -Transport & Power Systems

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST6872-1

Last Updated: 3/14/2013