Army to provide soldiers with new portable power sources

The new technology will use M-25 fuel cells, a lighter alternative to a traditional batteries that last 72 hours or longer.

The U.S. Army is moving forward with providing light-weight, portable power supply sources to its soldiers.

The military department has placed a $3 million follow-up order for the development of the M-25 fuel cell, a lighter alternative to a traditional battery, developed by DuPont and SFC Smart Fuel Cell. The M-25, worn by the soldier, combines DuPont's direct methanol technology with SFC's fuel cell systems. M-25 is up to 80 percent lighter than conventional power sources and can last 72 hours or more.

The agreement is the latest step in the M-25 program, which was awarded $1 million by the U.S. Department of Defense Wearable Power Prize in October 2008.

The M-25 can be a recharger or direct powering unit; its operating life can be extended with a refill of methanol. It is capable of powering a wide range of soldier equipment, such as digital communication and navigation equipment.

Fuel cells, which could be used to complement conventional batteries or perhaps eventually replace them, are being tested in other military arenas as well. The Air Force Special Operations Command is evaluating technology from SFC Smart Fuel Cell to reduce the battery weight Special Forces carry into the field and eventually power unmanned aerial vehicles.

In addition to the M-25, the Army is working with UltraCell to develop fuel-cell systems for mobile applications and increase the performance of equipment that must operate at high altitudes and temperatures, GCN reported recently. Also, UltraCell is integrating its XX25 and XX55 reformed methanol fuel cell systems with Protonex's Soldier Power Manager and Battlefield Power Manager products. And the two companies plan to collaborate with other industry leaders to establish a common standard for methanol refueling solutions for military and commercial applications, GCN reported.

A fuel cell directly transforms chemical energy into electrical energy with no intermediate steps or moving parts and no significant loss of energy, said Peter Podesser, chief executive officer of SFC.

SFC is based in Brunnthal, Germany. DuPont is based in Wilmington.