Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unburdening The Soldier Through Innovations In Battery, Power Component Technology

In a typical 72-hour mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Soldiers carry seven types of batteries, or 70 individual batteries in all adding almost 20 pounds that U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientists say can be reduced with advancements in battery technology research.

ARL's Energy and Power Division, part of its Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate (SEDD), has developed solutions that could soon benefit the military by reducing costs and unburdening weight Soldiers carry in theater, as well as benefit the commercial marketplace.

A typical infantry battalion spends more than $150,000 on batteries alone each year, the second highest expense next to munitions. Battery weight is a fifth of the total weight a Soldier typically carries in theater.

ARL sponsored a Battery Technology Industry day in mid February in McLean, Va., to spark commercial interest and enable innovation. Unburdening the Soldier was a key driver for the research and development effort said Dr. Paul Amirtharaj, acting director of SEDD.

Dr. Ed Shaffer, chief of ARL's Energy and Power Division,addresses a captive audience during the recent Battery Day held in McLean, Va.
Dr. Ed Shaffer, chief of ARL's Energy and Power Division,addresses a captive audience during the recent Battery Day held in McLean, Va.
Credit:  ARL

The event was organized to provide industry a unique opportunity to review and explore the licensing and commercialization possibilities through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and commercial licensing of these technology breakthroughs. This approach marks a new strategy for the ARL in reaching out directly to industry to strengthen collaborative efforts among military and industry in the advanced battery technology. Over 40 companies attended―all manufacturers who supply batteries or power components to the federal government or to the commercial marketplace.

"The Army needs better battery technology to meet the high energy demand and address the need for Soldier-wearable power solutions as well as technology that provide auxiliary power for on-board vehicles and supply power to unmanned air and ground vehicles, and unattended sensors," said Dr. Ed Schaffer, chief of SEDD's Power and Energy Division, which focused on battery chemistries and wide band-gap power electronics.

The event showcased the Army's cutting edge effort in developing advanced battery technologies to meet the military's growing need for innovative power and energy solutions and highlighted 17 ARL-developed technologies identified as strong candidates for commercial application. Higher voltage Lithium ion (Li-ion) battery chemistry generated considerable interest.

"Currently, rechargeable Li-ion batteries - found in cell phones, iPods, and laptops have a cell voltage in the range of 3.0 - 4.0 volts While this represents significantly higher energy density than other battery chemistries, there is more development needed to increase the voltage of these types of batteries," said Karen Laforme, an ARL program integrator who helped organize the event.

ARL researchers Dr. Kang Xu and Dr. Arthur von Wald Cresce have developed an electrolyte additive that enables Li-ion batteries to operate at 5 volts. This is a significant feat that is not possible with current state-of-the-art electrolytes.

Laforme relates that "The invented additive not only allows for higher voltage and the concomitant higher energy density, but also offers stability and long cycle life. Moreover, it is essentially a drop-in technology that can be easily adopted by battery manufacturers."

"Compact high energy density sources are critical for advanced Army capabilities, and we recognized that high energy density batteries will reduce Soldier load," said Shaffer. "ARL is leading the science and technology pushes in niche areas by leveraging extensive partnering with industry, academia and other military organizations."

"We work with our industry partners whenever we can to advance technology in the military sector to support the Soldier in the field." Laforme said. She further added, "We also understand the enormous opportunities or commercial markets and encourage companies to enter into licensing and cooperative agreements with ARL to adapt our technology to their products and bring these products to the market faster. The goal is to look for opportunities to leverage our technologies through partnerships with private industry. This creates a win-win situation for the Army and industry."

Source: Army Research Laboratory

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