Press Release


October 20, 2005

Development of the World's First "Solid-State Methanol" for Fuel Cells

Kurita Water Industries (HQ: Shinjuku, Tokyo; President: Hiroshi Fujino) has developed the world's first "Solid-State Methanol" with improved safety and portability, by applying clathrate compound technology to liquid methanol, the fuel for Direct Methanol Fuel Cells(hereinafter called "DMFC").

Background of development of solid-state methanol

Unlike conventional hydrogen-fuel cells, DMFC uses methanol to generate electricity. This eliminates the need for a high-pressure hydrogen storage tank and hydrogen production reformer, thereby reducing DMFC's size and weight. Many consumer-electronics makers strive to produce DMFC applications as a power source for portable devices, including mobile phones and laptop computers. Methanol is a volatile and flammable liquid at normal room temperature and pressure, and characteristically can easily ignite. Therefore any leak may cause the device to malfunction. In addition, methanol (in its original liquid state) is designated as a dangerous substance under the Fire Defense Law and as a toxic substance under the Poisonous Material Control Law, and the carriage of it onboard aircraft is prohibited. These operational restrictions have become part of the huge obstacle regarding DMFC's commercial viability.

About Solid-State Methanol

Solid-state methanol is created by clathrate compound technology, which traps and contains methanol as a guest compound in a host compound. With over 20 years experience applying this technology, Kurita has created a unique, yet comprehensive lineup of water treatment chemicals, including chemicals for cooling water facilities and paper processing.

Technology utilizing methanol in a solid-state eliminates methanol's volatility and the possibility of it being designated as a dangerous and toxic substance, while enabling the carriage of methanol onboard aircraft and preventing leaks. Furthermore, we have confirmed that solid-state methanol releases methanol when it comes into contact with water and DMFC's generate electricity using methanol as fuel. The characteristics of solid-state methanol are described below.

  1. Improved safety
    • Being in a solid state, it does not volatilize. It is not designated as a dangerous and
  2. High portability
    • Being in a solid state, it is assured not to leak
    • The application varies such as beads, pellets or seats.
  3. Recyclable
    • After being used as fuel, it can be reused by having a host compound react with methanol again.

When to launch the sale of solid-state methanol

The practical application of DMFC will be available by 2007, and will become popular around 2010. In collaboration with PC and other portable equipment makers, we will launch the sale of the newly developed methanol by the tentative deadline of 2007, aiming to capture a steady amount of its market share.

Future prospects

With regard to the solid-state methanol we have developed, the fundamental and peripheral patents applicable to the DMFC were already filed and some of them are open to the public. The solid-state methanol is scheduled to be registered as "Methanol Clathrate Compound" in the international safety standards concerning fuel cells for portable equipment.
In the future, full-scale production will start in partnership with consumer-electronics makers working on commercializing portable equipment-borne DMFC's. In addition, we have created the prototype of a new external battery system that is capable of recharging mobile phones with a cartridge equipped with solid-state methanol. These battery systems will be displayed at our booth at the "NEW EARTH 2005 International Symposium", INTEX OSAKA (Venue: Osaka-city, Osaka), from October 26th (Wednesday) to October 29th (Saturday).
In order to solve the current major challenge concerning the safe storage of hydrogen, we are also developing a new storage technology by applying clathrate compound technologies as was the case with solid-state methanol (some of the fundamental and peripheral patent applications were already filed). We will continuously work to further develop hydrogen storage technologies.

< Clathrate compound technology >

Clathrate compound technology produces a clathrate compound in which a relative proportion of guest molecules are trapped and contained in a molecular host which has holes or a molecular aggregate, and then forms a specific crystal structure. The interaction between different chemical substances affects the stability of dangerous substances and the long-lasting effectiveness of substances. This technology is applied to household products such as aromatic substances and deodorant.

< Direct Methanol Fuel Cell >

DMFC systems generate electricity in a chemical reaction caused by providing methanol directly. Methanol has a chemical reaction with water and produces carbon dioxide, hydrogen ion and electrons at the fuel anode. The hydrogen ion moves through electrolyte membranes to an air cathode. There the hydrogen ion reacts with electrons fed through external circuits and oxygen in the air to produce water.