THOUGH STILL a bit bigger than a typical battery pack, the fuel cell powering Panasonic's ruggedized laptop concept computer is about half the size of comparable devices. Alcohol is the fuel source, but it's methanol, not ethanol. Panasonic says the fuel cells, which are linked to a high-power lithium battery, could be used to power laptop computers, cell phones and digital still cameras.

Matsushita Battery, which developed the fuel cell in conjunction with Pennsylvania State University, was able to cut the size of the fuel cell in half by metering the fuel supply based on fluctuating power needs of the computer. Panasonic has not announced a timetable for commercial availability.