Laboratory Develops Biofuel-Powered Heated Vest

Jan 26, 2006

Around the world, military members from Alaska to Afghanistan work in harsh, frigid environments. Temperatures in the Afghani Mountains have been recorded as low as minus 51 degrees Farenheit, while Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, sees up to 69 inches of snowfall each year.

Military personnel must have user-friendly, affordable and enduring protection from inclement weather conditions as a result.

In searching for a solution, scientists at Air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate evaluated several methods to maintain a healthy body temperature in these colder climates by conducting market research and consulting with Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate, the Army Natick Soldier Center, OnPoint Technologies and the Air Force's Force Protection Battlelab.

Vacca Incorporated's biofuel-powered flameless catalytic heaters showed significant promise in meeting military member's cold-weather needs.

Through the Company Grade Officer Initiative, the directorate funded the integration of the heaters into a vest.

The lightweight, easy-to-use prototype combines a standard work vest with two of Vacca Inc.'s biofuel-powered heaters in the two front panels of the vest.

Using fuel cell concepts developed at Los Alamos National Laboratories, Vacca Inc. developed heaters that work by passing methanol or ethanol across a catalyst membrane. The reaction byproducts are heat, carbon dioxide, and small traces of water.

The prototype weighs dramatically less, at only 12 ounces, than the 1.7-pound commercial products on the market today and has the potential to weigh eight ounces in future designs.

The prototype provides enduring heat and comfort over existing approaches. The 15-piece cold weather uniform, currently worn by military members, can be bulky and cumbersome to wear and carry.

Additionally, these individuals are at greater risk when they must take off body armor to add or remove layers of clothes.

Commercially-introduced lithium ion heated jackets provide heat for two and a half to three hours before recharging the battery.

In contrast, Vacca Inc.'s prototype, can last 22 hours with 100 cubic centimeters of fuel in low heat mode (22 Watt) and 12 hours in high heat mode (42 Watt) according to the company's final report.

The vest's internal fuel supply has high/low/off settings for increased control.

Both the vest and fuel are much more affordable to the Department of the Defense compared to the available commercial products.

Current commercial products cost more than $500 per unit, while the full-scale version of Vacca Inc.'s technology will cost $150-$250. Market rates for methanol fuel are between $3 and $5 per gallon.

The prototypes purchased by Air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate are currently used to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology.

Copyright 2006 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Google's new CFO gets $70M for defecting from Morgan Stanley

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Getting a critical edge on plutonium identification

Mar 24, 2015

A collaboration between NIST scientists and colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has resulted in a new kind of sensor that can be used to investigate the telltale isotopic composition of plutonium ...

Planets orbiting red dwarfs may stay wet enough for life

Feb 09, 2015

Small, cold stars known as red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Universe, and the sheer number of planets that may exist around them potentially make them valuable places to hunt for signs of ...

Recommended for you

Meerkat vs. Periscope: Live-streaming app battle & buzz

1 hour ago

Download Periscope, Twitter's just-launched live video-streaming app, and you'll find people broadcasting all sorts of mundane stuff: waiting for AT&T to fix their wiring, getting out of bed in Silicon V ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.