[Homestead] Military needs smaller, lighter, more efficient power supplies

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Wed Sep 15 00:26:22 EDT 2004


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/Source:/     *The National Academies*    
/Date:/     2004-09-13
/URL:/     http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040913090102.htm

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   New Power Sources Needed For Soldier Of The Future

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army should investigate alternative power 
sources, such as fuel cells and small engines, to create longer-lasting, 
lighter, cheaper, and more reliable sources of energy for the equipment 
soldiers will use in the future, says a new report from the National 
Academies' National Research Council. In addition, the Army should step 
up its efforts to develop and acquire technologies that are more 
energy-efficient, said the committee that wrote the report.

"The Army should immediately conduct a comprehensive analysis of power 
sources for future dismounted soldiers, looking beyond today's standard 
military batteries," said Patrick Flynn, committee chair and retired 
vice president for research, Cummins Engine Company Inc., Columbus, Ind. 
"Many commercial energy sources exist, but they are developed for a 
consumer market, not the military. The Army must determine and select 
the energy sources that are most relevant to its needs."

The Army will equip its future warriors through a program called "Land 
Warrior," which, in addition to weaponry, includes high-tech electronics 
that significantly increase soldiers' awareness of the combat 
environment, such as helmets with visual displays, chemical and 
biological sensors, radios, and portable computers. But these devices 
are not energy-efficient and will need new power sources to operate 
efficiently. The development, testing, and evaluation of these new 
energy sources will be carried out under a program known as Future Force 
Warrior.

The committee evaluated and prioritized options for supplying energy to 
various low- and high-power applications on the battlefield. In addition 
to disposable and rechargeable batteries, the committee considered fuel 
cells, small engines, and hybrid energy systems such as those combining 
a battery with a fuel cell, or a small engine with a battery. Existing 
military batteries can provide enough power for computer displays, 
radios, sensors, and electronics for a 12-hour mission, but longer 
missions will require other technologies to efficiently power operations 
lasting up to 72 hours. These include improved low-power electronics, 
sophisticated power-management software, and "smart" hybrid energy 
systems that automatically adjust to the soldier's operating environment 
on the battlefield.

Some of the applications requiring a higher level of power -- an average 
of 100 watts -- include portable battery rechargers; laser target 
designator devices used to guide a rocket, missile, or bomb to its 
target; and individual cooling systems for protective garments. For 
these applications, the committee concluded that hybrid systems 
operating on common military fuels would be needed.

Other devices designed to enhance soldiers' performance on the 
battlefield use even more power, requiring between 1 and 5 kilowatts. 
For example, the "exoskeleton," which consists of a pair of mechanical 
metal leg braces and a backpack-like frame, literally takes the load off 
a soldier's back, allowing him or her to carry large or heavy packs 
without losing agility. To power such energy-intensive equipment, the 
Army should consider use of lightweight engine generators, the report says.

Among all possible energy sources, hybrid systems provide the most 
versatile solutions for meeting the diverse needs of the Future Force 
Warrior, the committee said. The key advantage of hybrid systems is 
their ability to provide power over varying levels of energy use, by 
combining two power sources.

"Products historically have evolved to become more portable, mobile, and 
wearable," Flynn said. "By integrating components and minimizing the 
energy they consume, tomorrow's military equipment will help soldiers 
operate in various conditions, extend the range and duration of their 
operations, and minimize their vulnerability."

###

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army. The National 
Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy 
of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, 
nonprofit institution that provide science and technology advice under a 
congressional charter.

*Editor's Note:* The original news release can be found here 
<http://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf/isbn/0309092612?OpenDocument>.

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/This story has been adapted from a news release issued by The National 
Academies./






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