Using Sanyo’s latest advancements in fuel cells that increase the longevity of notebook batteries, IBM and Sanyo have jointly developed a basic design of a fuel cell power source. Based on the design, the companies developed a prototype fuel cell system that could supply up to eight hours of power per cartridge on current and future ThinkPad models.

The technology, which works by generating electricity from mixing methanol with water and air, is likely to become widely available in the next two to three years, with the potential to revolutionize the way the electronics industry powers its remote products.

Unlike other prototypes that require a modified design to outfit fuel cell batteries, Sanyo’s system was designed to be compatible with most current ThinkPad models. The fuel cell system also includes an auxiliary bay for IBM’s Ultrabay Slim Battery to supplement peak power consumption for business applications.

The fuel cell system could enable ThinkPad notebooks to run intensive business applications such as multimedia, graphics and computation programs while performing tasks such as security updates and scheduled maintenance without draining PC battery power. These capabilities could provide added stability for increased productivity, access to information and customer service, IBM suggests.