Christopher Hurley is an engineer with the Army Power division of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), which is located at Fort Monmouth, N.J. Mr Hurley is manager for the Dismounted Soldier Power Army Technology Objective and specializes in energy storage devices.
Last day of the symposium and CERDEC Army Power will be wrapping it up with a media roundtable today! In addition to the “traditional” R&D efforts, I hope we get questions regarding our work in alternative power solutions.
We’re developing fuel cells, smart grids and environmental control units; harvesting wind and solar power; and examining waste-to-energy and biofuels. But one of the more novel projects we’re developing is a power source which converts commonly available sugars directly into electrical energy.
The bio-battery (enzymatic fuel cell) uses enzymes to convert sugar into energy similar to the way your body uses enzymes to convert food into energy. Researchers have spent the last five years working on a unique recipe for a reproducible, stable bio-battery which is both low cost and green.
The bio-battery has numerous advantages over existing batteries. The biggest of which is that it allows for instant recharge (through supply of more sugar) in comparison with traditional batteries which require access to power for two or more hours.
In comparison to fuel cells, the bio-battery has the advantage of a non-toxic, non-flammable fuel source (sugar) which is already in the Army supply chain. This is a huge logistics bonus considering the military’s one-fuel-forward policy makes providing methanol, hydrogen and other alternative fuels difficult.
The first target application is to provide a clean renewable power source for the Warfighter and fulfill a critical role in lightening the soldier’s load. In today’s increasingly electronic Army, Soldiers carry 20-40 pounds of batteries for a typical 72-hour mission. The bio-battery is designed to be a mission-extender to decrease the number of batteries carried by the Warfighter.
Other Defense Department applications include a range of remote monitoring, sensing and surveillance needs. Finally, applications are foreseen in implantable applications where the bio-battery can produce power indefinitely from a self-sustaining supply of sugar bearing materials in both plants and animals.
The promise of the technology was recently demonstrated at the Power Sources Conference where the bio-battery was connected to an electronic device comprising a Microprocessor and LCD display. The bio-battery was able to power the system for over 10 hours using less than 20mL of sugar solution. The current intent of this innovative technology is to integrate it with military systems and demonstrate it in field trials in 2011.
The potential is very exciting, and I’d like to hear you thoughts regarding this or other alternative energy/power solutions – especially if you have recommendations or lessons learned. If so, visit Army Power or contact CERDEC Public Affairs: (732) 427-1594.