Claiming to have determined a way to eliminate "the need for a bulky and heavy battery," Apple has made public two patent proposals, originally filed in 2010, that combined would enable the manufacture of fuel-cell batteries that could boost the life of handheld device batteries by a matter weeks. "Such fuel cells and associated fuels", the proposals promise, "can potentially achieve high volumetric and gravimetric energy densities, which can potentially enable continued operation of portable electronic devices for days or even weeks without refueling."
Though neither component of the proposed technology would require hydrogen to function, they indicate the strong possibility that hydrogen fuel-cell batteries can be lightweight enough to be commercially feasible, and their statement accompanying the proposals indicates this is where they intend to focus their efforts. The first proposal, Parallel Fuel Stack Architecture, is for a battery that would arrange fuel cells in a stack, promising to boost voltage significantly. This would be accomplished by allowing adjacent fuel cells to share electrodes, shrinking the number of electrodes required per battery, which would allow for the use of lighter components. The second patent application is for a method of creating a reduced weight fuel cell plate that would incorporate the technology proposed in the first application.
Aside from the obvious advantage to the consumer that longer-lived batteries would provide, Apple's eye is very much on the continuation of a good public image and the bottom line. "Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels," one of the applications says, "has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East." This relationship, Apple continues, "also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling." All true, and these problems are well worth the effort it would take to mitigate them. Not mentioned in the patent applications is the problem of increase fossil fuel usage stemming from an over-reliance on offshore child labor, but as they say, one problem at a time.
Patently Apple has posted the full statement.