They have actually used this to power a touch screen hand-held video player/cell phone.
Now before you start protesting the use of atomic power (that will be a debate in future multi-part series), I am talking about using the protons (I know it still sounds like an atomic reactor) in the methanol molecule and removing the hydrogen to create power.
What you are left with is water and a little carbon dioxide.
The device is called a Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) and uses a Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) to create power.
This is certainly better than grabbing power from a thermopile inside your wood-burning stove. Yes, that works too, but is not as portable or environmentally friendly. Even worse would be taking power from the public grid.
In its present form it is a bit bulky, but much less than carrying around one of those original 2-pound Motorola Flip Phones. Plus, the thought of giving your cell phone a drink would be hard to explain.
“But officer, I was recharging my cell phone with this bottle of alcohol!” Before long, there would be a law prohibiting your cell phone from drinking while driving.
Here is an idea: why not use this drinking battery at home where no one cares whether you take a nip or two (for the cell phone of course since methanol alcohol is poisonous to us mortals). Just set it on your table and charge your cell phone instead.
This idea is also good for your eyes: no more of those ugly wall warts hanging from your wall outlets.
What is that? You say carbon dioxide is not green? Try this experiment at home:
Take a bottle of soda. Remember those fizzy bubbles are carbon dioxide.
Connect a hose to the top of the bottle.
Gently shake or vibrate the bottle so the gas is expended from the soda.
Put a big plastic bag over your herb garden and allow the CO2 to build up inside.
You will see growth like no other fertilizer can give you and you will see a lot of green. Be sure to let in some oxygen once in a while as plants need oxygen as well as carbon dioxide to grow.
After that try pumping CO2 into the soil and see what happens.