Neah Power Systems Inc, a developer of micro fuel cell technology, has raised approximately $12m in a Series B round of funding. Total funding for the five year old company now stands at $20m.
The current funding was led by Castile Ventures and WestAM. Previous investors Frazier Technology Ventures, Alta Partners, and Intel Capital also contributed. The financing will be used to support Neah Power’s development and commercialization programs.
One of the drawbacks to the rise of mobile computing has been the limited life of traditional lithium ion batteries. Neah Power Systems is one of roughly 35 companies that is developing technology for direct methanol fuel cell applications. One of its competitors, PolyFuel Inc, raised $18.4m in a third round of funding in July.
The idea behind fuel cell technology is that once a mobile device, be it a notebook, a PDA, or a mobile phone has run out of power, users can simply buy a replacement fuel pack (for under $1) to power the device. Working prototypes are expected in 2005, with the first commercial sales slated for 2006.
The advantage of the fuel cell approach instead of the rechargeable lithium ion battery, is that fuel cells offer greater lifespan, possibly as much as three times longer than a traditional lithium-ion battery. This would allow, for example, a user to watch three full-length movies on a laptop, or seven to eight hours of film footage on a camcorder.
Bothell, Washington Neah Power Systems is developing a silicon-based direct methanol fuel cell. It believes that by utilizing the scalability of its silicon-based design architecture, its fuel cells have the potential to achieve higher power and smaller size than competing micro fuel cell technologies that use a proton exchange membrane to generate power. This could give Neah Power Systems a significant advantage considering how crucial size is in the mobile phone and PDA industries.
The massive electronic companies such as NEC Corp, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, MTI Micro Fuel Cell and Medis Technologies, are all thought to be working on fuel cell technology using the proton exchange membrane approach.
Neah Power hopes to introduce working prototypes of its technology later this year.