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)
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
Yes, long way to go to develop. We use this now for wireless transmission of energy across a campus to get Temperature, Humidity, Occupancy, Light Level, CO2 information back about every 90 seconds, and control a Building Automation System via BacNET/IP network. Works great, would work nicely for troop status, video transmission, field location of assets, etc. Would not want to dump too much RF Energy on the battlefield, but having a system that would charge and/or power individual electronics would be very beneficial for mobility. Suggest someone develop this and get rich from it!
My money is on Apple. The DOD should be talking to them. If there is a way to make batteries lighter/smaller Apple has more motivation than anyone else on earth. As far as wireless charging, this has never worked and (I hate to use the word never) but it never will. If you could send more than more a few milliwatts for any distance you'd probably kill or damage the person wearing the receiver or "at best" give them cancer. And NO I'm not paranoid about cell phone/brain disorders.
Also I don't understand how "wearing" the battery changes the kg/W-hr ratio of the technology.
Maybe I should call myself "grouchatnorcross". This just sounds like another way for DOD to spend money on studies with no useful return.
Actually you can send tens to hundreds of watts wirelessly over some distance (meters) by using resonant tuned circuits. There is a lot of research going on in this area by TV manufacturers who want their big screen TVs to hang on the wall with no wires, and Sony and others have demonstrated prototypes that send hundreds of watts a few meters without wires. But they are still to big and inefficient for real world use.
Aluminum foil hat wearers aside, the cancer risk of non-ionizing radiation has proved to be a non-issue. A couple billion people are exposed to high levels of RF radiation next to their heads on a daily basis, and have been in increasing numbers for 20 years since cell phones became ubiquitous. Since brain cancer rates have not materially changed over that time it is reasonable to conclude that such radiation does not cause cancer.
I'm not sure what kind of range you would need for this to be practical on the battlefield, but the power levels are pretty low - probably a few watts on a constant basis with a very small battery to level out the bumps - so with some more research it may yet be possible.
Or, we could just figure out how to put a fusion reactor into a cell phone :0)
Thebgoal is less weight for the same power, which is why they would be wearable instead of :liggable" battery packs. But what is really needed is a way to assure that there is ALWAYS power available for the night vision equipment and the night vision gunsights.
Having a bunch of different battery sizes is an effective means of assuring that the most important battery sizes will not be available when needed. But a single size would not be suitable for all applications. So there does exist a challenge there.
Although Apple may have the most motivation for making batteries lighter and smaller, they sure don't have the best track record at making them last very long. Their reputation here is pretty dismal. And I agree with William, different sizes does not sound like what soldiers need: they need one battery size that can work for multiple devices.
I agree about Apples' run time but the main problem may not be so much the battery but the ever-increasing demand for processing power for the electronics.
I would thnk that if it's possible to get better batteries that Apple has more clout than anyone on earth (because of their production quantities) to twist the arm of suppliers. I'll bet that if one of us could come up with a better battery that Apple would beat a path to our door.
For every battery (rechargable) that the DOD buys that Apple buys 1000 of them.
I'm a Mac user, so have suffered for decades from Apple's lower battery life compared to PCs, and I've heard similar complaints about batteries for their phones and other consumer portables. Apple may have the clout due to high volume, but that's not enough: if they haven't figured it out by now I don't see why that would suddenly change. I haven't heard a good explanation of why batteries for their portables don't last as long: maybe there is one. If so, I'm sure interested.
I agree with Ann that Apple does not have a good reputation for long battery life, but does have a history of battery problems.
And I hve not seen anything posted about energy harvesting providing anything close to a minimum requirement for soldiers applications. The possible exception is he passage sensing things that are able to detect infiltrators. Energy harvesting will need a large breakthrough in order to become more widely useful. And I don't see anything on the energy harvesting horizon.
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