According to a new report from Innovative Research and Products (iRAP) titled “Micro Fuel Cells for Handheld Consumer Electronic Products – A Global Industry and Market Analysis (ETP-103),” micro fuel cells have just entered consumer electronic products market and is likely to see large growth rates in the next five years. iRAP has estimated the 2006 market to be about $12 million and will reach $112 million by 2011 at an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 55.7% from 2006 to 2011.
A micro fuel cell (MFC) is an electrochemical device that converts the chemical energy of fuel, such as hydrogen or methanol or some patented fuel, into electrical energy. Unlike batteries, which require recharging, fuel cells can continuously produce electricity as long as there is a constant fuel supply. Though no universally accepted definition exists for micro fuel cells, the term typically describes small fuel-cell systems that provide less than 50 watts of power.
Fuel cells have potentially higher energy density than batteries and promise a significant increase in power availability for portable electronics. However, developing a fuel cell system for portable electronics presents several engineering challenges. To achieve high energy density requires miniaturization of the “rest of the system,” which can be achieved by incorporation of emerging MEMS technology. High conversion efficiency also presents a challenge to portable electronics designers to provide high efficiency electronics that support fuel cell operation. An additional challenge concerns the safety of a micro fuel cell system, particularly with respect to fuel handling and storage.
There is a potentially enormous market for fuel cells in the area of portable electronics. However, to become mainstream product, micro fuel cell systems must have superior performance and competitive cost with batteries. They must be safe to transport and environmentally friendly. Among portable power sources, however, micro fuel cells are not likely to replace batteries in all applications.
Achieving an attractive cost-to-power ratio (cost) and providing a viable weight-to power ratio (energy density) are the two major challenges driving commercial research and development efforts in fuel cell technology. Scientists can achieve such improvements through materials, components, design, or fabrication techniques. Development efforts range from basic technology work to optimization for specific applications.
This study focuses on key micro fuel cell products and provides data about the size and growth of the micro fuel cell market for handheld electronic consumer products segment, with company profiles and industry trends. The report also includes a detailed and comprehensive study of the market in North America, Europe, Japan, China and the rest of the world (ROW) for micro fuel cells and potential business opportunities in the future.
The report covers the underlying economic issues driving the micro fuel cell business and new developments. Also covered are legislative pressures for greater safety and environmental protection, as well as users’ expectations for economical micro fuel cells. The study provides the most thorough and up-to-date assessment that can be found anywhere on the subject. The study also provides extensive quantification of the many important facets of market developments in micro fuel cells in the world. This, in turn, contributes to the determination of strategic responses that companies may adopt in order to compete in this dynamic market.
- Major findings of this report are:
- High energy requirements for portable electronics have made micro fuel cell technology more attractive to many scientists and engineers as well as to entrepreneurs interested in ventures in the new energy arena.
- In 2006, the global micro fuel cell market was worth $12.2 million. This is expected to increase to $ 111.7 million by 2011 with an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 55.7% from 2006 to 2011.
- From 2006 to 2011, portable digital assistants (PDAs) will show the highest growth rate reaching 89.8%, followed by camcorders, chargers and other consumer electronics at an AAGR of 83.7 %, and mobile phone applications at 50.7%.
- Among different technologies, direct methanol fuel cells will capture the largest share followed by hydrogen based fuel cells and fuel cell using proprietary fuels.
- In 2006, North America had the largest share of the market followed by Europe and Japan. By 2011, the North American market will decline to 57% while the Japanese market will increase to 25% and take the second place instead of Europe.
- More than sixty companies and institutions worldwide are currently active in the field of miniaturized fuel cell systems.