We have developed a lightweight, quiet, portable emergency power pack for use in any field. Unlike the current lithium ion batteries used by the military, which have low energy density and pose safety concerns, our system can reduce fatigue on soldiers by safely providing them with ten times the energy stored in current lithium-ion batteries (1500 Wh/kg vs. 150 Wh/kg). The emergency power pack uses our patented aluminum fuel which can be reacted with almost any water source, including waste water, to generate heat and hydrogen on demand. The hydrogen is fed to a fuel cell to generate clean electricity safely and silently.
The emergency power pack has three distinct features: a disposable fuel bag which stores the reactive aluminum fuel, a power module containing the fuel cell and electronics, and a water source which can interface with any screw-top water container. The entire pack has no moving parts, which minimize its potential failure points. The operation of the power pack is simple and intuitive, allowing for rapid deployment in the field. The user connects their water source (generally a water canteen) and fuel bag to the power module and upright it to allow gravity to feed water to the reaction bags, and once started, the power pack can be used in any orientation. The aluminum immediately reacts with the water, allowing the device to generate electricity. After a fuel bag has been depleted, it can be disposed of in the open. The waste from the aluminum-water reactions is non-toxic to the environment and can even be recycled in recovered.
Apart from the power module housing and a modification to the fuel cell electronics, every part of the power pack is built using off-the-shelf components, making it a low-cost and robust design. The aluminum fuel is manufactured using scrap aluminum and non-toxic chemicals and requires minimal processing to make. Currently, we can produce up to several kilograms of fuel at a time and it can be stored indefinitely without fouling.
What enables the device to have such high energy density is the fuel bags. Aluminum has 40 times the energy density of lithium ion batteries and more than twice that of gasoline or diesel. Since the fuel is so energy dense, a soldier can carry several fuel bags and a power pack, totaling 5 pounds, to replace 25 pounds of batteries normally carried for a standard 3-5 days mission. Due to the high energy-density of the power pack, soldiers can potentially carry more energy than they could before with less weight, allowing them to power potentially life-saving gear for longer.
This power system technology has applications beyond aiding dismounted soldiers. Unlike conventional generators, which are bulky, noisy, and produce toxic fumes, our aluminum-powered technology is near silent and can be scaled up to provide power on a generator-sized scale. This enables silent power generation for small bases or large machinery that can be produced indoors, thus bringing safer, reliable, and potentially life-saving energy solutions to many applications.
- 2018 Aerospace & Defense Honorable Mention
- 2018 Top 100 Entries
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