Feeds

German methanol unit wins Pentagon portable-power prize

Fuel-cell/battery combos sweep the rankings

The US defence department has announced the winner of its "Wearable Power Prize", a contest to develop a portable powerpack which could lessen the crippling load of batteries carried by modern soldiers. The $1m purse has been taken by US firm DuPont, partnered with Germany's SFC (Smart Fuel Cell).

The prize, inaugurated last year, initially attracted 169 competing teams. These were whittled down to twenty in preliminary testing. All the entries had to weigh less than 4kg, be suitable for attachment to a soldier's combat webbing, and offer energy density better than any available battery technology.

The surviving 20 contenders went forward to the semi-finals, a 92-hour bench test discharging 1,840 watt-hours of juice (20 watts output over time). Just six powerpacks made it through this test without running flat.

These six then went into the final event without being recharged. They faced a four-hour series of "field tests", with the systems worn by a team member and dispensing a further 80 watt-hours to power real equipment in typical military applications. These included running a laptop, a Land Warrior wearable-smartphone rig, a thermal scope, heated and cooled garments, a water purifier and an inflation pump.

Those which got through the final were then ranked by weight, with DuPont/SFC's "M-25" system coming in first at 3.76kg. The M-25 used a methanol fuel cell, hybridised with a battery pack to store the cell's output for better peak-load performance. Overall it held almost two kilowatt-hours.

Second and third places, winning a half-million and a quarter-million dollars, went to Adaptive Materials Inc (AMI)'s "Amie25" and Capitol Connections' "Jenny 600S". Both these systems - like all those which reached the final - used hybridised fuel cells too, though of different types to the winning M-25.

The winning methanol powerpack weighs a fifth what an equivalent amount of military batteries would, and its fuel is easily stored and handled in a military context. With a modern foot soldier's mission endurance typically limited much more by batteries than by food or ammunition, the technology would seem to have a bright future. Safety and heating concerns which have long delayed commercial applications will probably not be so much of a barrier in the military: soldiers who routinely carry grenades, demolition charges and even portable missiles will not find a methanol powerpack unacceptably hazardous.

"Fuel cells are the portable and off-grid power sources of the future," said Peter Podesser, CEO of SFC Smart Fuel Cell. ®

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.