Imagine a cell phone that doesn't need a charging cable, but is instead powered by alcohol. It may sound silly or even dangerous, but right now a Roseville man is in the process of building an alcohol powered fuel cell for your phone.
"The alcohol is actually methanol. Once I put it on this metal it will make electricity," said Patrick Coleman. Coleman is building a methanol fuel cell. The magic behind his device is this thin piece of platinum and ruthenium.
"They are both rare earth metals so they are expensive," Coleman said.
The science behind the fuel cell is complex. Basically the methanol reacts with the rare metals creating an electrical current.
"The fuel cell can last longer than a typical battery and you don't need to charge it. Just at more methanol,” Coleman said.
Fuel cell technology has been around for decades. NASA used the technology during the Apollo missions. Coleman wants to make cells for every day uses.
Methanol is cheap. Its made from trees, but the metal needed for the fuel cell is expensive. Coleman can't afford to make a large fuel cell. It would cost thousands. He plans to develop a series of cells that will power small devices like cell phones.