Bothell’s Neah Power aims to create buzz with fuel cells

BOTHELL — People are using mobile phones and iPads not just in homes and businesses, but at remote work sites and even battlefields around the world.

This growing popularity of mobile devices is leading to a growing demand for mobile energy sources.

Enter Neah Power Systems, a Bothell-based company that is developing fuel-cell technology with the cool sounding names of BuzzBar and PowerChip.

Rechargeable batteries need to be plugged into the wall to get energy, take a while to recharge and eventually have disposal issues.

Fuel cells can instantly be recharged when fuel is added and maintain power longer than batteries, said Chris D’Couto, president and CEO of Neah Power Systems.

“You have to plug batteries into the wall to drain energy from the grid and store them, this is then released when it’s used. A fuel cell is an energy-generation device, that can generate energy on demand.” D’Couto said. “Our fuel cell which is filled with formic acid creates that energy by converting the fuel directly into energy.”

Since its inception, Neah Power has attracted more than $58 million in investment from Intel Capital, Novellus Systems and the U.S. Navy among others, D’Couto said.

It’s a publicly traded company (ticker code: NPWZ).

The business, which operates out of a 6,600-square-foot facility in Bothell, is making a limited number of units of its first fuel cells.

“Our goal and intent with shipping out these first few generation-one units is to gather feedback from consumers.” D’Couto said. “We will then incorporate that feedback into the new generation-two units set to be available for pre-order in June of 2014.”

Neah Power is working with UMC Global Solutions out of Woodinville for design and manufacture of these first units. The company in the future could partner with larger companies like Telecom and Samsung Distribution Services, which has sent a letter of interest.

Neah Power was founded by two University of Washington students, Leroy Ohlsen and Michael Fabien, in 1999. It started in Ohlsen’s garage. The pair later moved their business to the UW Incubator Center for a short time before some larger investments led them to go public.

The company has two main products: The PowerChip and the BuzzBar.

The PowerChip is a high- density fuel cell that uses a direct methanol fuel cell system. It’s primarily used by the military, government and corporations. When its energy has been used up, the user just replaces the old cartridge with a new one and more power is instantly available.

It uses a patented porous silicon base that does not require air to operate like many other methanol fuel cells so it has the freedom to operate in remote areas, underwater or even space.

“The non-air functionality in this fuel cell was funded by the U.S. Navy in 2008-2009,” D’Couto said.

BuzzBar is the newest Neah Power line. It’s a small fuel cell that can recharge mobile devices out in the field.

It can get its power from numerous sources like plugging into the grid, solar power called BuzzSol and AA battery power called the BuzzBatt.

For more information on Neah Power Systems, go to www.neahpower.com.

More in Herald Business Journal

Best foot forward: Ferndale company to make custom shoes easy

Long specializing in insoles, Superfeet is putting 3-D machines in stores to make customized shoes.

Glitches slow Boeing, SpaceX plans restore human spaceflight

Boeing has an issue with its abort system that may cause the spacecraft to “tumble.”

Planemaker joins forces with auto-industry supplier Adient

The new venture poses a threat to Zodiac Aerospace and Rockwell Collins

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Port of Everett CEO Les Reardanz has been called up and will be spending much of the year away from his office. He is going to Afghanistan. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Port of Everett CEO reporting for duty — in Afghanistan

Les Reardanz has been called to active duty with the Navy for an eight-month deployment.

Boeing opens new $17 million training center in Auburn

Workers and dignitaries marked the grand opening of the facility Monday.

Trump’s company fights efforts to shed the president’s name

“Our homes are worth more without the Trump name.”

Airbus floats shutdown of A380 superjumbo

The aircraft is so big that some airports had to expand runways to accommodate the 550-seat plane.

Does a hypersonic US reconnaissance plane already exist?

A Skunk Works executive speaks of the top secret aircraft as if it is already in operation.

Most Read