New power sources needed for soldier of the future

Sep 11, 2004

The U.S. Army should investigate alternative power sources, such as fuel cells and small engines, to create longer-lasting, lighter, cheaper, and more reliable sources of energy for the equipment soldiers will use in the future, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. In addition, the Army should step up its efforts to develop and acquire technologies that are more energy-efficient, said the committee that wrote the report.

"The Army should immediately conduct a comprehensive analysis of power sources for future dismounted soldiers, looking beyond today's standard military batteries," said Patrick Flynn, committee chair and retired vice president for research, Cummins Engine Company Inc., Columbus, Ind. "Many commercial energy sources exist, but they are developed for a consumer market, not the military. The Army must determine and select the energy sources that are most relevant to its needs."

The Army will equip its future warriors through a program called "Land Warrior," which, in addition to weaponry, includes high-tech electronics that significantly increase soldiers' awareness of the combat environment, such as helmets with visual displays, chemical and biological sensors, radios, and portable computers. But these devices are not energy-efficient and will need new power sources to operate efficiently. The development, testing, and evaluation of these new energy sources will be carried out under a program known as Future Force Warrior.

The committee evaluated and prioritized options for supplying energy to various low- and high-power applications on the battlefield. In addition to disposable and rechargeable batteries, the committee considered fuel cells, small engines, and hybrid energy systems such as those combining a battery with a fuel cell, or a small engine with a battery. Existing military batteries can provide enough power for computer displays, radios, sensors, and electronics for a 12-hour mission, but longer missions will require other technologies to efficiently power operations lasting up to 72 hours. These include improved low-power electronics, sophisticated power-management software, and "smart" hybrid energy systems that automatically adjust to the soldier's operating environment on the battlefield.

Some of the applications requiring a higher level of power -- an average of 100 watts -- include portable battery rechargers; laser target designator devices used to guide a rocket, missile, or bomb to its target; and individual cooling systems for protective garments. For these applications, the committee concluded that hybrid systems operating on common military fuels would be needed.

Other devices designed to enhance soldiers' performance on the battlefield use even more power, requiring between 1 and 5 kilowatts. For example, the "exoskeleton," which consists of a pair of mechanical metal leg braces and a backpack-like frame, literally takes the load off a soldier's back, allowing him or her to carry large or heavy packs without losing agility. To power such energy-intensive equipment, the Army should consider use of lightweight engine generators, the report says.

Among all possible energy sources, hybrid systems provide the most versatile solutions for meeting the diverse needs of the Future Force Warrior, the committee said. The key advantage of hybrid systems is their ability to provide power over varying levels of energy use, by combining two power sources.

"Products historically have evolved to become more portable, mobile, and wearable," Flynn said. "By integrating components and minimizing the energy they consume, tomorrow's military equipment will help soldiers operate in various conditions, extend the range and duration of their operations, and minimize their vulnerability."

Explore further: Neuromorphic computing 'roadmap' envisions analog path to simulating human brain

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Power arm band for wearables harvests body heat

Apr 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —A group of Korean researchers have turned their focus on supplying a reliable, efficient power source for wearables. Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ...

Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

21 hours ago

A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy.

Ikea buys wind farm in Illinois

Apr 15, 2014

These days, Ikea is assembling more than just furniture. About 150 miles south of Chicago in Vermilion County, Ill., the home goods giant is building a wind farm large enough to ensure that its stores will never have to buy ...

Neuroscientist's idea wins new-toy award

Apr 15, 2014

When he was a child, Robijanto Soetedjo used to play with his electrically powered toys for a while and then, when he got bored, take them apart - much to the consternation of his parents.

Scientists see urgent need for reducing emissions

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —The bad news: a major transformation of our current energy supply system is needed in order to avoid a dangerous increase in global temperatures. The good news: the technologies needed to get ...

Recommended for you

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

2 hours ago

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

Weibo IPO below expectations, raises $285.6 mn

2 hours ago

Sina Weibo sold fewer shares than expected in its US IPO which was priced below expectations ahead of a Thursday listing that takes place after tech selloffs on Wall Street.

'Chief Yahoo' David Filo returns to board

3 hours ago

Yahoo announced the nomination of three new board members, including company co-founder David Filo, who earned the nickname and formal job title of "Chief Yahoo."

User comments : 0

More news stories

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...