(July 2006) Eagle Picher receives contract to develop next generation military batteries with State-of-Charge Indicator (SOCI). The next generation version of the battery builds upon the company’s previous SOCI-equipped BA-5590 which was launched last year and field tested successfully by the U.S. Army. The improvements include an increase in the number indication levels and the incorporation of “Smart Activation.” The Smart Activation feature automatically activates the battery when it is plugged into the equipment it powers and returns to “sleep mode” when disconnected. This provides longer shelf storage life prior to and after initial use.
The high-energy Lithium sulfur dioxide (LiSO2) BA-5590 is the military’s most widely used battery. Tremendous cost and logistics savings are available with the addition of an SOCI. Users will now have the ability to make smart replacement decisions based on the remaining energy capacity, eliminating the need to discard a mission-critical battery after a single use.
At the Power Sources Conference 2006...
of the Military and NASA
by Shirley Georgi
Power Sources - This highly technical conference, held from June 12 - June 15th, 2006, offered over 180 presentations and poster sessions in addition to the Exhibitors’ Mart. From conceptual designs for new batteries, fuel cells, flywheels, photovoltaics and supercapacitors to commercially- ready products, this conference provides a best-of-breed environment for learning and sharing among electrochemists, engineers, scientists, market specialists and new development entrepreneurs. Each attendee has opportunity to expand his/her knowledge base as well as connect with colleagues about the potential capabilities and challenges for future portable power.
The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Army Research, Development & Engineering Command. This group initialized the concept of getting together as a group to discuss power sources over 40 years ago and the meeting has expanded over the years to include other interested participants such as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, Defense Advance Research Projects (DARPA), Department of Energy and NASA. The focus of the conference is broad, in that it considers its scope an “energy generation marketplace.” Although the emphasis is still on devices (i.e., batteries, fuel cells), the content also includes relevant contributions on materials, mechanisms and power managements as well as prototype development, manufacturing technology and system engineering.
Although attendees had an opportunity to choose among 26 sessions - each presenting five or six papers, 40 poster sessions were also added as an enrichment. During ‘coffee breaks’ there was adequate time to both visit the Exhibitors’ Mart and review the poster papers. Topics included:
• Advanced Materials and Processes
• Aqueous Batteries (Primary and secondary)
• Battery Safety/Quality/Testing
• Fuel Cells, Fuel Processing and Storage
• Hybrid Power and Alternative Power Systems
• Molten Salt Batteries (Primary and Secondary)
• Polymer Batteries and Solid-State Technologies
• Charging Techniques and State-of-Health
• Primary Lithium Batteries (inc. Liquid Reserve)
• Secondary Lithium Batteries/Lithium-ion Batteries
• Metal-Air Batteries
Noticeably absent from the ‘lineup’ was any paper on Nickel-metal hydride batteries/chemistry although there was one presentation on Nickel-cadmium entitled “Review and Comparison of NiCd (Nickel-cadmium) Technology for Military Aircraft Applications” by D. Lucero of Mobile Energy Products, Inc. Only one paper concentrated on Lead-acid and that was on “a study on rapid-test methods for Lead-acid batteries” by Isidor Buchmann of Cadex Electronics. Although fuel cells garnered the main attention of four sessions, secondary lithium batteries held the central focus at the conference.
Almost 40 companies supported the Exhibitor’s Marketplace. Most of the companies displayed and discussed products along with support services/materials for Lithium-based batteries, but there were a few companies emphasizing other chemistries. RAFAEL Armament Authority, Ltd. highlighted its thermal batteries and Enersys (Hawker) stressed its wide range of commercial and MIL-qualified valve-regulated sealed Lead-acid (VRLA) batteries for aerospace and defense.
Several fuel cell companies were also ready to integrate their products into military markets where small portable electronic devices are used. Ultra Cell Corp. displayed its Reformed Methanal Fuel Cells for portable power applications with its XX25TM model. Protonex touted its advanced fuel-cell power solution for sub-kiloWatt portable, remote and mobile applications; the company noted that one Protonex system with three fuel cartridges provide the power of thirteen BA5590 military batteries - creating savings of 62% on weight, 50% on size and over 20% on cost per mission. Millennium Cell said it is ready for prime time with its patented chemical process involving borohydride-based technology which stores and delivers hydrogen energy to power portable devices. Mesoscopic Devices LLC. explained its focus has been on developing both the direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) and solid oxide fuel-cells (SOFC) with power ranges from 20W to 2kW. PEMEAS USA, E-TEK Division highlighted its work with components for fuel cell stacks. Also included in this group was Ida Tech with its development of fuel processors and integrated fuel cell systems for portable, remote and backup power. Adaptive Materials Inc. reviewed its advancements in its propane-fueled SOFC systems.
There were only two companies representing photovoltaics and one company representing flywheels. PV&E showcased its new Sun-Simulator that has been installed for BAE’s Battery Test Center in Rockville, Maryland. PowerFilm displayed its commercially available flexible film panels which are monolithically integrated, thus eliminating the need for damage-prone manual connection of individual solar cells; the company notes that these solar panels perform well in diverse conditions such as hot sun. Optimal Energy Systems, Inc. said its new flywheel system was appropriate in the military for high-Voltage pulsed power.
The military has a continual quest for power sources having longer life with both high energy density and high power density. Safety is also a prime concern and is getting much attention, especially with the lithium-based chemistries.
The military is also looking for compact portable power units for soldiers; these units must be light in weight and yet meet cost objectives. Currently, the most popular battery for the solider today is the primary lithium BA5590. However, based on new research and developments, there are possibilities that this battery could be replaced with a rechargeable unit, although not a portable unit carried by soldiers. Perhaps even some of the themral batteries may also lose some of their usage in the military to rechargeable units.
BD is providing a series of articles in this issue and ensuing issues to discuss the presentations and information gathered at Power Sources 2006.
The military initiated a program in the late 1990s to develop a family of digital combat radios dubbed the ‘Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS.) Because of the needs of the Iraq war, waivers are used because JTRS isn’t yet available. Despite the ‘Joint’ nature of the program, individual services have had responsibility for various parts, putting the program years behind schedule. Now the program is being restructured. To assist completion needed for the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) items such as backward compatibility and encryption and superconducting electronics are being revisited. Meanwhile, contractors are developing software radios which will allow upgrades to meet current needs.
National Defense, August, 2005 pp 14-15
The Department of Defense conceived the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) in the late 1990s. The goal was to integrate more than 750,000 radios for all services and implement software control. Of specific battery interest is the cluster 5 classification for handheld radios. The program has less than solid final goals because of -- the variety of mission needs, the possibility of using next level technology including superconducting electronics and the demands of the Iraq war which expanded the need for present technology radios.
NATIONAL DEFENSE, Aug. 2005, pp.14-15