Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Think Small When Powering Today's Electronic Soldier

Date:
April 4, 2003
Source:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Summary:
On the battlefield, having a reliable source of power to operate the many advanced electronic devices a soldier carries is essential. But today's heavy and cumbersome batteries fall short in satisfying the military's needs. In search of both a lightweight and reliable alternative, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed the smallest power system yet, all wrapped up in a micro-sized package.

RICHLAND, Wash. -- On the battlefield, having a reliable source of power to operate the many advanced electronic devices a soldier carries is essential. But today's heavy and cumbersome batteries fall short in satisfying the military's needs. In search of both a lightweight and reliable alternative, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed the smallest power system yet, all wrapped up in a micro-sized package.

PNNL researchers, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have developed the world's smallest catalytic fuel processing reactor system to provide a low-watt power source for hand-held wireless equipment, sensors and other small but essential devices required by today's troops.

The petite power system -- about the size of a cigarette lighter -- converts liquid fuel to electricity via a microscale fuel processor coupled with a microscale fuel cell developed by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. An integral part of the system is PNNL's revolutionary fuel reformer, about the size of a pencil eraser, which enables the system to convert fuel and water into hydrogen-rich gas. The fuel cell then generates electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen from the air into electrical power and clean water.

"Our miniaturized fuel processor incorporates several chemical processes and operations in one device," said Evan Jones, PNNL principal investigator. The fuel processor system contains two vaporizers, a heat exchanger, a catalytic combustor and a steam reformer, all within a compact package no larger than a dime.

The military envisions many useful applications for this emerging miniaturized energy-generating technology. According to Terry Doherty, director of PNNL's Department of Defense programs, soldiers could power personal, lightweight cooling systems while wearing protective suits and gear, prolonging their own comfort and efficiency during a reconnaissance.

"Vital personal communications devices could function for extended periods without the added weight of bulky, inefficient batteries," Doherty said. He added that miniature sensors powered by the same technology could be scattered before advancing troops to monitor ground vibrations or detect dangerous toxic agents and relay this information electronically to soldiers. This technology broadens the possibilities for using self-sustaining items such as mobile devices in remote or difficult-to-access locations.

While methanol has proved to be the most effective fuel source, other liquid fuels such as butane, jet fuel -- also known as JP-8 -- or even diesel may be used. And, because the hydrogen power source is only produced as needed, there is no need to store or carry the volatile gas, reducing risk and creating a lighter load.

Testing has revealed that performance from the reformer and fuel cell prototype is impressive. "This system can produce an equivalent power (20 mW) to batteries, but at one-third the weight," Jones said. Similar micro fuel cell systems with greater power output (50 W) currently under development are providing power equal to that of batteries weighing 10 times as much. Researchers suggest that with additional system efficiencies and improvements, even greater performance may be achievable.

PNNL researchers have found that huge processing plants, traditionally used to produce chemicals and other products, can be scaled down exponentially. "What can be achieved on a large scale," Jones said, "can be achieved at a microscale."

Business inquiries on PNNL research and technologies should be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or e-mail: inquiry@pnl.gov. For further information on the catalytic fuel processing reactor system and other PNNL-created microscale research, go to: http://www.pnl.gov/microcats/fullmenu/minfuelcells.html.

###

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a DOE Office of Science research facility and delivers breakthrough science and technology in the areas of environment, energy, health, fundamental sciences and national security. Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, has operated the laboratory for DOE since 1965.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Think Small When Powering Today's Electronic Soldier." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/04/030404072012.htm>.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. (2003, April 4). Think Small When Powering Today's Electronic Soldier. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/04/030404072012.htm
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Think Small When Powering Today's Electronic Soldier." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/04/030404072012.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins