The US military is looking for a way to make batteries and other power sources lighter for soldiers to carry in the field. Researchers at the US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) have come up with a wearable power pack and two next-generation batteries that are being tested and will be put into use in the next year.
This effort is one of several the military has undertaken recently to change the design of historically heavy items by using lighter materials or a more utilitarian design. We recently reported on the development of an ammunition backpack to help reduce the weight of munitions on the battlefield.
Christopher Hurley, an electronics engineer with the US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, holds a half-size BA-5590 battery, left, along with the standard version. The Army is researching the use of lighter battery materials to lighten the load for soldiers. (Source: Army)
The Army Website says batteries and power sources leave a lot of room for lightening the load in the field, reducing soldier fatigue, and increasing agility. An integrated power source could also eliminate the need to recharge batteries in the field. To achieve this, RDECOM researchers have designed a power-source vest, called the Soldier Wearable Integrated Power System, or SWIPES, which includes a main battery that can be used to power up a number of items.
SWIPES can hold pouch-mounted chargers and power cables for batteries, GPS units, shot detection systems, and handheld communications, allowing soldiers to keep their devices and electronic equipment charged constantly. It also saves soldiers from carrying up to 12 pounds of batteries, according to the Army, which is field testing several hundred SWIPES units.
I doubt any available RF charging technology would be useful in the power densities required by dis-mounted troops. Of course, Tesla would be delighted to see all of the recent interest in wireless power delivery.
I wonder if the battery technologies listed in the article have the same fire hazard of traditional lithium batteries? If so, I would hope that shielding the troops from the heat and/or flame would be priority #1.
With advent of electrical/electronic systems on battlefield, why couldn't soldiers wear the lighter battery with remote charging ability. POWERCAST and others make a RF Battery Charging system that wirelessly transmits power to receivers that charge batteries, or can be used to store info from Soldier in this case, and transmit in bundles every 3-5 minutes.
Wireless technology takes output from generated electricity, transmits it to soldier's receiver and then allows them to store, causing them to wear lighter weight equipment. System could transmit directionally to a platoon or brigade size unit over RF, and each soldier's system could store a new charge without changing out batteries or connecting to a charger.
Simple, lightweight, very few moving parts, and no matter where you were as long in reasonable distance and somewhat line of sight, you could be Charged.
Elizabeth's statement "SWIPES can hold pouch-mounted chargers and power cables... " says there's loads of room to improve a soldier's load besides the battery.
In two years, I'll predict the army will be looking at ways to eliminate all of that cabling and chargers. Each device would have a dedicated holster with built in charging capability, like docking an I-pod. Each holster could then draw from a central, larger power source via some sort of bus built into the harness the soldier wears. No cables, no power blocks.
The purpose is to make wearing, using, charging as effortless as possible. No fumbling in pouches, no cables. Just put the unit away in its holster.
It would look more like Adam West's "Bat Utility Belt" I suppose...
Since energy density is the key to reducing battery weight, then I would assume that the lithium-carbon monofluoride mentioned here must have a very high energy density. I wonder how high the energy density is and whether this chemistry would make sense for consumer applications.
Having just lugged my laptop around again while traveling to a trade show last month, this looks like an especially good idea. The weight of the batteries (I always carry an extra JIC) and the power adapter are still ridiculously heavy and most of the weight involved.
It's great to see so many different efforts around trying to lighten the load of soldier backpacks. Between this effort and some of the others we've written about, including the batteries that are charged based on soldier activity, there are a lot of options for making things slightly easier for our military personnel when out in the field.
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