Gas up your Mac: Apple patents hydrogen fuel cells for MacBooks and iPads

Apple has patented a truly bold strategy for improving the battery life in its devices: a portable and cost-effective fuel cell system that converts fuel into electrical power.

Specifically, Apple wants to use “proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells” that convert hydrogen into electricity. The patent predicts that these cells could power a computer for “days or even weeks without refueling”.

The challenge, as the patent itself admits, is to make this fuel source portable and cost-effective, compared to simply continuing to plug your computer into an outlet. Apple Insider first spotted the patent.

  • Apple also patented retractable keyboards,
  • a foldable iPhone or iPad,
  • and an iPhone you wear on your face

Apple explains its political motivations for finding alternative fuel sources in the patent: “Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling”, it reads.

The Apple patent document is credited to a group of inventors who originally claimed this idea in 2010, then again in 2015. Apple’s patent has superseded these – clearly indicating it bought the invention from the original team — but it’s highly unlikely that this concept is anywhere close to being implemented in upcoming Apple devices.

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