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Manhattan Scientific Inc.New YorkMicro-Fuel Cell

Despite remarkable advances in mobile computing and wireless communications, business travelers and commuters remain entirely at the mercy of their batteries. When a device drains, all work stops until the battery can be recharged. And it can take precious hours to get up and running again. Manhattan Scientifics hopes to remedy the situation. The New York firm has developed an entirely new type of battery -- dubbed a Micro-Fuel Cell -- which extends the life of a notebook computer to 15 to 20 hours and a mobile phone to 100 hours of talk time and 40 days of standby time. The Micro-Fuel Cell also can boost performance for portable power tools and other equipment. "By eliminating batteries it is possible to change the way people use existing wireless devices and create entirely new capabilities," says Robert G. Hockaday, Manhattan's chief fuel-cell scientist. He began working on the device 22 years ago from his garage, creating a firm named Energy Related Devices Inc. in Los Alamos, N. Mex. In 1997 the firm received more than $1 million in funding from Manhattan Scientifics. The Micro-Fuel Cell uses oxygen to strip hydrogen away from methanol. Instead of "burning" electrons like a conventional battery, the electrons "give up" their energy by generating environmentally friendly carbon dioxide and water. When the energy source runs out, an individual can refill the cell's small tank in seconds. Mobile-phone companies and others are keeping a close eye on Hockaday, who expects to develop a commercial version of the Micro-Fuel Cell within a year. "Many experts said that it wasn't possible to ever develop this type of device," he notes. "We are on the verge of creating truly portable electronics." John Teresko, John Sheridan, Tim Stevens, Doug Bartholomew, Patricia Panchak, Tonya Vinas, Samuel Greengard, Kristin Ohlson, and Barbara Schmitz contributed to this article.

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