The U.S. Navy should place a high priority on development of new all-electric ships and associated drive, power conditioning, and distribution systems. So recommends the Committee on Technology for Future Naval Forces, a unit of the National Research Council. The committee attempted to identify technologies that will be of greatest importance to naval operations out to the year 2035. The panel's re-port contends that gas turbine propulsion units, modular rare-earth permanent magnetic motors, and power control module technologies have matured to the point that all-electric ships appear feasible. The direct electric drive for ships and submarines, the group adds, offers "unique advantages" in reduced volume, modular flexible propulsion, lower acoustic signatures, enhanced survivability, and new capabilities. Incorporation of superconductivity into motors, energy storage, and power distribution, the study states, will further increase capabilities of all-electric craft. The committee also advises the Navy to step up research into microelectromechanical systems.
Researchers have been working on a number of alternative chemistries to lithium-ion for next-gen batteries, silicon-air among them. However, while the technology has been viewed as promising and cost-effective, to date researchers haven’t managed to develop a battery of this chemistry with a viable running time -- until now.
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