Narrator: This is Science Today. Micro-electrical-mechanical systems, or MEMS, use chemical or other types of processes to literally micro machine silicon into mechanical structures. An actual systems-on-a-chip concept. Jeff Morse, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is working on a MEMS-based fuel cell power source, which he says may one day replace rechargeable batteries.
Morse: This is in fact a miniature fuel cell and what fuel cells offer is they nominally will operate off of either hydrogen fuel, or I think more recently for small and portable applications, hydrocarbon-based fuels - for example, methanol or butane.
Narrator: The benefit of this technology is that it's a direct-conversion device.
Morse: The key thing is it's storing the energy as fuel and so it converts that directly to electricity with a little bit of losses due to heat and inefficiencies, but by comparison to batteries, you might see maybe a factor of two or three - and possibly even factors of ten improvements in operating time.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.