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Firm Demonstrates Fuel Cell Using Recyclable, Solid Fuel

CARLSBAD, Calif.—Metallic Power announced that it has successfully demonstrated the world’s first fuel cell-based portable power source powered by a solid, safe and completely recyclable fuel.

By powering a lighting system with the latest version of its zinc/air fuel cell, the company achieved a significant investor milestone. Accomplishing this goal paves the way for their development of the first practical, portable fuel cell-based power source that can be employed in a wide variety of applications-from transportation to industrial to home and recreational use.

“We’re extremely pleased and proud to have made fuel cell history today,” said Dr. Jeff Colborn, Metallic Power CEO. “Never before has anyone demonstrated a technology that comes close to our combination of energy density, robustness and ease of use, with a fuel that is safe, abundant and completely recyclable. This moves our product a giant step toward commercialization. We aim to be the first commercially viable fuel cell product on the market, with a fuel the consumer can easily recycle at their home or business.”

During these critical tests, the innovative device provided more than 1 kWh of energy using a single sealed, quick-change fuel cartridge containing zinc and electrolyte. With this technology, users will be able to refuel simply by inserting cartridges indefinitely while the system provides continuous power. The cartridges themselves can be recycled over and over with a compact and equally simple recycling unit. Unlike most other fuel cell technologies currently being explored, Metallic Power’s implementation does not require high pressure, high temperature or reformers, and it uses one of the Earth’s most abundant elements for fuel. Because of the system’s fundamental simplicity, its developers believe that it will offer a safer, more cost-effective approach to renewable energy.

The Metallic Power zinc/air fuel cell generates electricity when it combines zinc and oxygen in the presence of an electrolyte. The reaction also produces zinc oxide, a safe white powder commonly used in sun block. In the separate recycling unit, this zinc oxide is turned back into fresh zinc fuel using electricity, and the oxygen is released into the air. It is an entirely closed-loop system-with nothing to add, nothing to discard and nothing wasted. The zinc and electrolyte can be used over and over. The fuel cell is quiet, emission-free, environmentally safe and completely recyclable.

Zinc fuel has up to 10 times the energy per pound and per volume when measured against traditional lead-acid batteries. Compared to gasoline engines, the fuel cell has up to three times the energy efficiency, and is quiet and emission-free so that it can be used indoors. Unlike hydrogen fuel cells, zinc fuel is nonflammable and it has up to twice the energy density.

The Carlsbad, Calif.-based firm plans to commence field trials at the end of this year, with beta test in 2001 and product launch in 2002. The company recently closed its second round of financing, in which it raised over $6 million and added Minnesota Power and Hydro-Quebec Capitech to its growing roster of investors.