Technology Today

2011 Issue 1

The Battlefield Game Changer: Portable and Wearable Soldier Power

Imagine that you have a 100-pound load on your back for the next 72 hours, and you're hiking on rough terrain where there are likely to be many life-threatening dangers in your path. You can't abandon your load, because it holds life-saving necessities. This is a 72-hour mission in Afghanistan.

Of the 100 pounds in the load, approximately 25 percent is from batteries, which power all electronic devices a soldier carries. If the battery load can be decreased, while still allowing the devices to be powered, the soldier could carry more ammunition, water and other warfighting gear. Or it will simply help the soldier feel less fatigued when on the battlefield.

In order to remove battery weight from our soldiers, Raytheon is developing an efficient, portable/wearable fuel cell that can either supply power directly or charge batteries anywhere, any time. Comparing this to the standard BA-5290 military lithium ion battery (880cc and 1300g) with the same volume or form factor, the fuel cell can provide four times more run-time with a half of the BA-5290 weight.

Revisiting the 72-hour mission, a soldier needs to carry seven different battery types weighing about 25 pounds. The battery cost per soldier, per day is approximately $40 to $50. Using this alternative fuel cell technology, a soldier could potentially drop portable power weight by more than 11 pounds (a weight savings of more than 40 percent). The savings become even more dramatic when considering next-generation, soldier-borne power management schemes where the fuel cell directly powers all equipment. In this example, no batteries would be needed, and no recharging would be required. A fuel cell with three cartridges of fuel could last 72 hours and weigh only about 5 pounds. The cost of this system would be about $5 per soldier, per day.




Howard Choe

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