Mercury News | 06/09/2003 | Fuel-cell start-ups hoping for breakthrough

Mercury News | 06/09/2003 | Fuel-cell start-ups hoping for breakthrough David Dorheim wants to run the world’s laptops on race-car fuel, and he’s one of many in the emerging fuel-cell industry turning to computer-chip history for inspiration.

Neah Power Systems, a Seattle-area start-up where Dorheim is chief executive, is emerging as a hot company in the portable fuel-cell business, along with competitors such as PolyFuel in Mountain View. Fuel cells use a chemical reaction to produce energy from fuels such as hydrogen or the methanol used in race cars, without burning it.

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Neah Power, which has investment money from Intel among other investors, uses porous silicon as the surface that enables the electrochemical reaction. When methanol hits platinum coated on the silicon, the increased surface area creates more electricity in a smaller space.

Dorheim said using porous silicon could be a way to sneak some of the benefit of computer-chip advances into batteries, since Neah could increase the number of pores in the silicon and improve the fuel cell. But, he noted, “there is a big difference between the semiconductor industry and the electrochemical industry, which move at different rates.”

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