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Fuel Cells For (Military) Portable Computing

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the call-it-vaporware-with-impunity dept.

Technology 141

SEWilco writes: "A 2-3 pound fuel cell is being developed to power wearable military systems for a week." 2 to 3 pounds may sound like a lot, but it gets more reasonable when you consider that it means not carrying a conventional battery or an AC adapter around. Of course, you may not be able to take your battery onto an airplane, though ...

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Re:knock elephants out (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#290881)

Hello American, Slashdot and the Internet in general is accessible by (yikes) non-Americans. When you write "our nation" it's just showing how naval-gazing you are.

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#290882)

it seems to me that if someone can get a clear enough shot to shoot you with one of these, it would be just as easy to shoot you in the chest or ...well.. anywhere they wanted

It's not that new... (1)

yendor (4311) | more than 13 years ago | (#290884)

I read an article about a similar product that toshiba had developed some 2 years ago.
It was a standard battery wich contained an engine like the one in this article and methanol fuel.
You where supposed to get 10 times the normal battery time out of it and back then that would peobably have meant 10-20 hours.
The battery was a little larger than todays are but it's basicly the same thing.

Might not be a new thing but it's a new adaptation at least.

// yendor
--
It could be coffe.... or it could just be some warm brown liquid containing lots of caffeen.

Re:2-3 Pounds ? (1)

zaf (5944) | more than 13 years ago | (#290887)

but it's insignificant compared to the amount of weight that a soldier normally carries

Re:But... (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 13 years ago | (#290889)

Why is everybody so concerned about the volatility of hydrogen on slashdot? It's not like gasoline isn't much more horrible, and most slashdot readers probably drive around in machines containing over a hundred pounds of highly volatile liquid fuel that will burn or explode violently at the slightest spark. A lot of slashdotters probably use stoves which run on a gas which has blown up entire houses just because there was a leak and then a spark. Hydrogen is very weak by comparison.

Remember, two thirds of the people on the Hindenburgh survived!

Re:But... (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 13 years ago | (#290890)

If so, even more evidence that hydrogen is not dangerous.

Re:Explosions (1)

Raven667 (14867) | more than 13 years ago | (#290892)

That reminds me of when I was in Bosnia. Some of the Army pukes were carrying M16A2/M203 combo rifles, they were assigned about 20-30 grenades for the M203. I guess there isn't much you can do with 20 grenades but these guys either had them all strapped to a vest or on bandoliers. There's nothing funnier than a couple of guys who look like either Mexican banditos or walking bombs. I vowed that if the shooting started (thank God it didn't, whew!) I would stay as far away from these jokers as I could, I didn't want to be near them when they turned into fireworks show.

Well I don't actually know if grenades will go off if they are shot but I didn't want to find out the hard way.

Re:Smaller fuel cells (1)

LeBleu (15782) | more than 13 years ago | (#290893)

Another advantage is that hydrogen in its liquified form can be distributed with little modification to todays gas distribution infastructure.

Excuse me? Um, liquid hydrogen has to be either under extreme pressure or extremely cold. Neither of which can be done with just a little modification to today's gas distribution infrastructure. Now, if you use something like this fuel processor to convert a more easily distributed fuel like methanol or diesel fuel into hydrogen in the car itself, then the methanol or diesel can easily be distributed with little modification to today's gas distribution infrastructure.

Re:even methanol burns (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 13 years ago | (#290894)

JP-4 (jet fuel) is really similar to kerosene. Have fun getting that stuff to explode. Yeah, you might set it on fire and have some flaming trails running down your body but that can be dealt with.

Of course, this is just quibbling. The point is that carrying liquid fuel is hazardous in a combat area

Just being in a combat area is hazardous. The most hazard from any type of carried equipment is the shrapnal it makes when it gets between you and a bullet. I saw some weird shit as a medic in Desert Storm, dealing with all the P.O.W's. A bullet wound's easy to figure out. It's the multiple entry and exit wounds from shattered coins, buckles, etc the go through a person after being shot that piss ya' off.

37th AEG (air evac group).

Re:It doesn't make sense (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 13 years ago | (#290895)

Desert Storm proved that wars are best fought and won from the air, using precision weapons the minimize damage to surrounding areas. There is no place for the foot soldier anymore, Vietnam proved that.

Desert Storm was a stacked deck in our favour. We had several airbases already set up in Saudi as well as a greatradar net over the area. We were also up against a small "professional" army as well as hundreds of thousands of conscript troops with poor equipment, weapons, training and leadership.

As a medic over there, I mostly treated P.O.W.'s (thousands streaming through our area alone). These people were, for the most part, peasant farmers and such, and a lot of them had WWII era weapons (bolt action rifles, only a few rounds per soldier, etc.). The area we moved through (northward into Kuwait) had these poor shmoes in trenches with barb wire in front of them and behind them. The Republican guard had marched them to the front and then made it impossible for them to retreat. No wonder they were surrendering to news crews and everyone else.

As far as the bombing goes, there's no way to secure an area with an airplane. At best, you can knock out equipment make people on the ground really want to be somewhere else.

One other thing. Despite all the jokes about military intelligence being an oxymoron and such, our military does a hell of a good job and they are not eager to lose troops. If they still see a need for thousands of ground forces in the service, then I have a feeling that they know what they are talking about. Otherwise, we'd have scrapped the ground forces for all air power, right?

Vietnam is not a good example either. If anything, it shows that air power was not as effective as hoped and that the ground troops had to go in to get things done. The failure of Vietnam is due to the politicians running the war. When given a free reign, the U.S. military can get the job done.

37 AEG-Air Force

Re:2-3 Pounds ? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#290896)

This is just the fuel cell, intended to power wearable electronics. As the article mentions, carrying 2 pounds is better than the equivalent 20 pounds of batteries for a week's power. [Now we watch twelve people mention the solar-generating clothing article from several hours ago]

Re:Most Laptops weigh this much!?! (1)

Knobby (71829) | more than 13 years ago | (#290898)

Most laptops weigh about twice this much! The exception are the ultralight notebooks, that are generally little more than puffed up PDAs. (which is really about all most of us really need, but that's another issue..)

DARPA [darpa.mil] has been funding a lot of research over the last few years with the hope of finding a viable power source for their urban soldier armored suits (among other projects)... I'd be surprised if this didn't spin out of some of that.

Re: 2-3 pounds (1)

Kennarth (72332) | more than 13 years ago | (#290899)

The standard issue combat equipment for a Ranger, SEAL, Para-Rescue, or any other Special Forces soldier weighs anywhere from 80 and 120 pounds. This includes everything from your BDU (battle dress uniform) to weapons, food, maps, radios, and emergency gear (med kits, nuclear/biological/chemical warfare equipment, etc.).

Recently, the US Military has been outfitting Special Forces of all branches with GPS systems, laptops, and small, wearable (and usually Linux-running), computers for enhanced communication with their superiors.

A 2-3lb processor/fuel cell for all this equipment is insignificant in the big picture. Until combat electronics can be shrunk down to palm-pilot size, the GI's will always have to carry massive loads of equipment, plus all the new-and-improved computer systems. But then again, that's what they're trained to do.

--

Re: go Air Force (1)

Kennarth (72332) | more than 13 years ago | (#290900)

"the 'Chair Farce' gets all the cool toys. (F-22, F-117A, et cetera.)"

Let's not forget the Tier II Predator [af.mil] , one of the most sophisticated pieces of technology in the USAF [af.mil] . Sitting in the air-conditioned offices of the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron [af.mil] at Nellis Air Force Base [af.mil] , flying a recon mission via satellite linkup half-way around the word. I guess it's a living.

Nothing against the jarheads-- I mean the USMC [usmc.mil] . You guys are great, and I'll stand behind you 100% in a fight.

--

Re:The point is being missed by you, here. (1)

eagl (86459) | more than 13 years ago | (#290904)

I'm certain that a bullet smacking the fuel cell will cause somewhat more concern than a bullet "merely" whizzing past or even striking a soldier's body armor. Body armor isn't proof against a liter or so of burning fuel. I'd expect the fuel cell to have some sort of containment system and it's own armor, but that's still a bunch of flammable goodness in your gear.

I'm sure the risk can be minimized to an acceptable level, but it will still remain a hazard. Considering that some soldiers were killed during Desert Storm by inadvertently injecting their own chem warfare antidote doses into their skulls when using their packs as pillows, these fuel cells had better be made extremely foolproof.

even methanol burns (1)

eagl (86459) | more than 13 years ago | (#290905)

The amount of energy transferred from a modern rifle round is likely to be enough to ignite even methanol. Steel core bullets are commonly used and they can strike sparks (in addition to the impact energy they transfer) when they hit various materials.

The article also suggests that other fuels can be used including jet fuel, and this seems more likely as the soldiers could refill their fuel cells from the same source that refills tanks and other vehicles. It wouldn't be very efficient to require a brand new supply chain just for these fuel cells. Jet fuel also doesn't explode very easily (a common demonstration involves tossing a lit match into a bucket of jet fuel - it doesn't ignite), but tag a bottle full of the stuff with a high speed bullet and it will vaporize and ignite with a huge fireball. Methanol will do the same, and the trace amount of hydrogen present in the device may simply act as a trigger to ignite the rest of the stored fuel.

Of course, this is just quibbling. The point is that carrying liquid fuel is hazardous in a combat area.

Re:2-3 Pounds ? (1)

d2ksla (89385) | more than 13 years ago | (#290906)

That is exactly why you'd want a 3 pound generator instead of the 20 pound battery pack I had to lug around when I was in the infantry. And that damn battery pack didn't last us more than a couple of days!

Re:Easy answer: (1)

d2ksla (89385) | more than 13 years ago | (#290907)

If I was in an infantry platoon during war, exploding power cells would be the least of my worries. Ever heard of machine gun fire, mines, and cluster bombs?

GRID (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 13 years ago | (#290908)

They'll most likely come from www.grid.com [grid.com] - who already supply the military laptops. I had one of these to play with a few years ago, a 386, but for the time it was decent performancewise, and you could drive a truck over it, pick it up, open it, and go right back to work.


"That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (1)

Tiroth (95112) | more than 13 years ago | (#290909)

I hate to say this, but even the best body armor isn't likely to offer much protection from a true sniper rifle.

Re:Easy answer: (1)

evilWurst (96042) | more than 13 years ago | (#290910)

neither would you explode and kill everyone if your 2 pound fuel cell got hit, "fuckface". Most of that two pounds is the casing...plus, hydrogen burns fast and not very hot. Its not napalm. It might give you the equivalent of a sunburn. 9th graders play with burning hydrogen in chemistry class.

think before you speak.




Re:Explosions (1)

evilWurst (96042) | more than 13 years ago | (#290911)

You don't WANT a FoF transmitter on soldiers...that's a death wish. Would you want the enemy triangulating on your signal and knowing exactly how may of you are out there, where you are, and what direction and speed you're moving?

I didn't think so.




Oh yes, more stuff to carry on my back... (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 13 years ago | (#290912)

And how may I ask do they propose to connect my rifle, my laser targeting devices, my night vision goggles, and all the other equipment to that big battery? Wires? AA batteries don't weigh that much; definitely not enough to justify adding a 2-3 lb power generator to the 80 lb of equipment that I already have to carry around. Seriously, those designers need to be taken out to the field on a short infantry mission to ensure sanity.

Site that runs off Fuel Cell Server (1)

Anaplexian (101542) | more than 13 years ago | (#290914)

A site called TimepassTown [timepasstown.com] reportedly runs off a stack of fuel cells powered by methanol by products. Though the site doesn't have much info about fuel cells, the speed of the site is awesome.

Ah, technology... (1)

T.Hobbes (101603) | more than 13 years ago | (#290915)

Nuclear reactions, emission-less fuel systems - they're both the same... Genius A figures the science/technology behind one potentially helpful technology, and Genius B finds out how to use that technology to further the cause of war. If G.B. can.

Re:Ah, technology... (1)

T.Hobbes (101603) | more than 13 years ago | (#290916)

What do you think?

Re:go Air Force (1)

The_Messenger (110966) | more than 13 years ago | (#290917)

Yeah, a job in the "Chair Farce" entails sitting in an air-conditioned office all day. These offices are outfitted with plenty of large desks to hide under whenever Marines show up. (It has been scientifically proven that one US Marine can kick the asses of about 42 airmen single-handedly, and will, given the chance.) It's a pity that the Marines have better pilots, because the Chair Farce gets all the cool toys. (F-22, F-117A, et cetera.)

--

Re: 2-3 pounds (1)

VultureMN (116540) | more than 13 years ago | (#290918)

Even if they shrink or lighten currently existing equipment, they'll just have the soldiers carry more shit with them. Hell, 100 years from now soldiers'll still carry 120 poinds of stuff, but 20 pounds of that will be a small fusion-powered factory that uses nano-bots to create ammunition from the surrounding soil.
well, maybe not, but they'll always be able to find more shit for the soldier to carry.

Is C02 a safe byproduct? (1)

e7 (117450) | more than 13 years ago | (#290919)

I read somewhere that mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide. The enemy would just have to listen for the sound of excessive bug-swatting, and open fire. (Either that, or use the mosquitos themselves to deliver a deadly payload.)

whoops, I meant CO2 :) (1)

e7 (117450) | more than 13 years ago | (#290920)

obligatory body text

A better link (was: Re: Land Warrior...) (1)

dvk (118711) | more than 13 years ago | (#290921)

As a follow-up to my own post (ok, roast me if you will :) I just found this in my bookmarks: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/land-warri or.htm [fas.org] seems a much more informative page about Land Warrior.

Re:Explosions (1)

Ibby (130127) | more than 13 years ago | (#290922)

There's a few ways around this, using more modern technology, such as frequency hopping transmitters (if the frequencies are apart enough, the enemy RX won't be able to grab them all). Also, data burstable transmitters are generally the norm these days, as they are less of a security threat. Also, other mediums could be used, such as light/infra-red/ultra-violet line of site transmitters. This stuff's in the development stage, but I work with it directly, and I must say, it's pretty cool...

Re:Explosions (1)

Ibby (130127) | more than 13 years ago | (#290923)

Yes. I work for the government, for a long time now. It's not impossible. It is difficult, depending on the system used. But the LOS systems are much more secure, and a ton more fun to play with...

Re:But... (1)

Dahan (130247) | more than 13 years ago | (#290924)

Gasoline won't explode "at the slightest spark." Only in the movies.

However, gasoline vapor in air will. In Real Life, even. That's how internal combustion engines work.

Re:But... (1)

dorzak (142233) | more than 13 years ago | (#290927)

First, read the article before you post. The generoter is only about 3 inches at the largest part.

Second this is methanol, which is basically an alcohol, it burns yes, but it isn't going to explode in the massive fireball your are talking about.

Third the generator is placed inside the pack, chances of hitting, are pretty slim.

You can't see it to target it

If spray enough lead around to hit it, then you are going to have taken the soldier down anyways, and the little poof, or fire at worst that results would be a minor thing compared to the fact that he is already KIA.

Re:Does this seem... Not At All (1)

Beowulfto (169354) | more than 13 years ago | (#290928)

According to the article, the fuel will be methanol, which is much less volatile and flammable than gasoline or diesel. For more info on methanol check here. [slashdot.org] Methanol vapor must be four times more concentrated in air than gasoline vapor for ignition to occur. So while there would be a greater risk than using a conventional battery, danger to the soldier is not a huge issue.

Also take into consideration the fact that they are using microchannels up to 500 microns wide, so the amount of hydrogen gas present at any given time will most likely be miniscule.
----

Special Forces will use it first (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 13 years ago | (#290929)

I bet the first folks who use this are the Special Forces. I talked to one about a project we're working on for them, and they have to transport a surprising amount of electricity-consuming stuff along with the batteries to power it all. Anything that can be done to reduce the weight they have to schlepp around will be most appreciated.

2-3 pounds (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 13 years ago | (#290930)

The battery in my laptop weighs 3.6lb. I aint bitching.

Hell, my school bag weighs like 35 lb, and I carry it without complaint, I don't think GI Joe (or jane) is going to mind another 3 lb. Now, the "laptop" is probably going to be big, rugged as hell and probably have some serious horsepower.

And wow. a week. Thats damn cool.

I want one of these damn things. Another reason to join the military? (you know, like on the commercials, "I learned alot . . . And got a free laptop", hey I didn't find it funny either.)

I have a shotgun, a shovel and 30 acres behind the barn.

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (1)

loraksus (171574) | more than 13 years ago | (#290931)

right through the right eye. Snipers cool.

I have a shotgun, a shovel and 30 acres behind the barn.

Re:Methanol - Hydrogen (1)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 13 years ago | (#290935)

CH2O being formaldehyde, not the best thing to be spewing out as waste...

2-3 Pounds ? (1)

bolix (201977) | more than 13 years ago | (#290936)

Most Laptops weigh this much.

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (1)

KurdtX (207196) | more than 13 years ago | (#290937)

First - they are very small containers of hydrocarbons, and they are much less dangerous than the equivalent amount of hydrogen.
Second - if you could shoot the fuel cell, why not just shoot the soldier?
Third - I don't know if you've noticed but the military does pretty good with protecting our soldiers. If this turns our as big a liability as you say, they'll figure out something to mitigate it or drop the system.

(Actually, I think this would be great for our (us being the US) soldiers because of the offensive capabilies it'd add - thermal imaging will let our snipers own theirs!)

Kurdt

pretty interesting (1)

Daath (225404) | more than 13 years ago | (#290938)

As new technology goes toward high performance, low emission, zero pollution technologies to produce power.
I like Peter F. Hamiltons (read his books) ideas - most of his tech is powered by fuel cells - all of them running a combination of He3 and deuterium (heavy hydrogen)...
Interesting! Are we slowly progressing towards cold fusion? I found spectrum tech. corp. [spectrumte...ration.com] , they seem to have a patent on some fuel for fuel cells, called HOD (Hydrogen-Oxygen-Deuterium). They've been mentioned a few places...
Also I stumbled across something called PPC - Patterson Power Cell - It seems that Mr. Patterson believes that his tech will make fossil fuels obsolote - that would be really cool! Read more here [altenergy.org]
Try doing a google search for "deuterium fuel cell" - You'll get a lot of interesting hits!

Re:Reminds me of stormtroopers (1)

HongPong (226840) | more than 13 years ago | (#290939)

Booyah good or booyah bad?

--

Re:Ah, technology... (1)

mother_superius (227373) | more than 13 years ago | (#290940)

Is GB:
(1) Genius B
(2) George Bush
(3) both?

Re:Methanol - Hydrogen (1)

mother_superius (227373) | more than 13 years ago | (#290941)

My guess would be either
(2)H2 + CO, or
H20 + H2 + C

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (1)

mother_superius (227373) | more than 13 years ago | (#290942)

They aren't *that* big, and if they could hit you there, they might as well shoot you in the face.

Re:But... (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 13 years ago | (#290947)

Not if the hydrogen is generated slowly and as needed. Although methanol doesn't like being shot at either.

Re:Explosions (1)

Baddas (243852) | more than 13 years ago | (#290948)

Fuzed so that they don't go off on bandoliers when shot or when they are bumped hard. The fuze has to be set by them leaving the casing.

In the unlikely event that a bullet hits the primer of the round, the grenade has to travel a certain distance, I'm not sure how far, but at least 10m, before it goes off.

It's more likely IMHO that some joker next to you throws the pin... PEBCAK.

Re:It doesn't make sense (1)

LordArathres (244483) | more than 13 years ago | (#290949)

If, heaven forbid, the United States was attacked on our own land.

That is not a likley thing that will happen. Most countries that are considered threats are very far away. You cant count Mexico or Canada. If a country tried a land attack against the US, they would have to transport their troops either by Sea or Air. Sea is a better option than air because our Fighter Pilots will easily shoot down enemy air craft transporters as they are slow etc. Granted they will be accompanied by fighters and thats fine. Our Radar systems will intercept enemy plans a LONG time before they get even close.

By Sea would be a better choice as most of the US Navy is not near the US coastland. Although a country sending in troops by sea would run into a LOT of US Citizens who would not be too happy. Granted a lot of them would run far away, there would also be a lot who would fight back.

If the US got invaded by land you would see a milita form faster than you could blink. Using Cell phones and radio equipment could coordinate a nice counter-attck. Granted the losses would be HUGE compared to a trained army. And granted we as citizens dont have the weaponry to take out tanks and heavy artillery but we do have enough people to slow down a attack until the Military gets there. I do have weaponry at home that will go through any military body armor out there from a nice distance. Its called a 50 Caliber rifle. It will nicely stop a lightly armored vehicle and go through ANY personal body armor. It also has a very nice range.

Arathres


I love my iBook. I use it to run Linux!

hydrogen less dangerous than gasoline (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 13 years ago | (#290950)

Theres a reason we all drive gas powered cars and not hydrogen. Hydrogen by itself carries far less energy than gas (all that carbon and oxygen makes a huge difference)

these cells are relatively tiny. Hydrogen, does not let off some kind of devastating explosion. Perhaps a little puff of a flame if compromised (one must assume these things are very well built..it would be far easier and more devastating to set off a grenade someone is carrying as opposed to this thing).

What does having to get hydrogen from gasoline have to do anything? Is the hydrogen from gasoline somehow different from plain ole' hydrogen? heh..

As someone pointed out, its alot easier (and more effective) to simply shoot someone in the head than try and hit the little power generator..

I've reached my sniveling quota. Thank you. (1)

Kibo (256105) | more than 13 years ago | (#290952)

Oh boo hoo. The evil military-industrial complex types are subverting our Utopia again?! Are you kidding me. Computers got their start crunching numbers to break codes (so people might be found and killed) and make good artillary tables. The space program, with all that we've now gleaned, was a front to develop a way to mutually assure destruction via efficient delivery of nuclear power to all points on earth. The internet was, in part, built because it showed some promise in resisting efficient delivery of an unconrtolled surplus nuclear power. The first satillite was a proof of concept for intercontinental ballistic missle payload delivery. The second generation had cameras. Even the humble aluminum can is the product of a willingness to kill. Why some might argue that our lanky build owes its shape to the utility of the spear.

This could be a painfully long list, rather than a short, tiresome rant; but to my point, the military has money to burn and likes to invest it in the next generation of consumer goods. The world and all it's fruits are born from the seeds sown in the quest for a better Reaper. It's hard to argue with a formula that provided both the Death Star and 99 Luft ballons.

Re:Methanol - Hydrogen (1)

FamousLongAgo (257744) | more than 13 years ago | (#290953)

The byproduct would probably be plain old carbon dioxide, which the soldier is producing already.

Re:It doesn't make sense (1)

Fluxcore (261827) | more than 13 years ago | (#290955)

... to develop a technology for something that is now obsolete, that is the common ground soldier. Desert Storm proved that wars are best fought and won from the air, using precision weapons the minimize damage to surrounding areas. There is no place for the foot soldier anymore, Vietnam proved that.


Desert Storm was not a good example of future war's. We were fighting an army with technology generations behind us. Obviously our biggest threat is China, which I am sure is better armed then Iraq was. Not to mention huge amount's of troops is thier big advantage.

If, heaven forbid, the United States was attacked on our own land. Ground troops would be the way to defend. Not launching missles and blowing away our homeland. No matter the new technology, the ground troop is here to stay. And it is to our advantage to outfit them with the best equipment possible.

Re:But... (1)

ispq (301273) | more than 13 years ago | (#290957)

I thought the Hindenburg burned so rapidly due to the aluminum paint the Nazi's used, rather than the Hydrogen gas.

Re:It doesn't make sense (1)

ispq (301273) | more than 13 years ago | (#290958)

Not withstanding the effectiveness of airpower, if one wants to own a piece of real estate, one needs to have grunts on the ground covering it, period. We currently do not possess any better way of controlling a piece of land than actually having troops on it. What Desert Storm proofed is that we could force them to pull back, but we could not reclaim Kuwait until we actually put troops on the ground.

Re:But... (1)

agallagh42 (301559) | more than 13 years ago | (#290959)

...and what happens when a bullet hits the existing 20lb battery pack? Mmm, battery acid frosting.

Re:This could be used for Land Warrior... (1)

badfish2 (316297) | more than 13 years ago | (#290961)

I was afraid when I saw the name of the company building it, until I realized that it wasn't Pacific Consultants :)

Gee, ready for anything (1)

capt.Hij (318203) | more than 13 years ago | (#290962)

Having the computer to document repairs and service would be nice. As for the medical stuff, I was a medic in the army. You might find this hard to believe, but they actually gave us some training on how to deal with trauma before being sent out in the field! Although, it would be nice to be able to record patient information on something other than those damn cards (which were usually smeared with mud and blood and your pen didn't work on them).

The medical reference stuff would only be useful for advanced stuff. I'm just trying to imagine my infantry patient when I pull the computer out. "Hmmm, looks like you got appendicitis. Lemme pull that file up... Got it. That doesn't look too bad... Okay... I'm going in." (Maybe there's an open source medical series from Oreilly?)

On a serious note. Medics have to carry about 50 lbs more equipment than the infantry guys. (In the units I was in I also had to help carry the m60 ammo. Those bastards...) The thought of having to carry around any extra computer equipment and power sounds like a back breaker.

Re:Yes they are for combat (1)

Liquid-Gecka (319494) | more than 13 years ago | (#290963)

The battle field is not 'the place where the shooting is happening' the battlefield is everything involved in war, this includes the support crew. Also, all members of the armed forces train with weapons, and most the support crews carry weapons. I didn't say that they where not going to used in battle ever, I said they where not going to be used in battle for the time being. This was mainly directed towards the 'But if they get shot they will blow up' comments that where springing up like crazy.
Just because the article talks about there uses in combat doesn't mean that they will be used in combat first. Usually in the military things are tested in non-critical areas first, like portable/wearable computers in this case. I was attempting to explain that we will see things like this pop up in less critical applications first and then slowly move it onto the battle field (after it has been proven).

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (1)

stonelinton (320039) | more than 13 years ago | (#290964)

Soldiers are professionals. They don't enjoy the luxury of cowardice that some civilians might. Ammo, grenades, rockets, and demolitions are all combustible . . . and regularly carried by our armed forced while on the battlefield.

Phosphorus tipped bullets present a considerable hazard in themselves. But that original fantasical senario is a true sign to Hollywood's penetration into mainstream thinking, or lack thereof. Only in a movie would a sniper take the time and risk to aim for a relatively small, shielded, and hidden fuel cell, when they could go for the obvious head-torso kill-zone.

Re:Reminds me of stormtroopers (1)

Spanishlnquisition (322890) | more than 13 years ago | (#290965)

Boo-yah!

--

What ever (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 13 years ago | (#290966)

First - The author of the parent comment DIDN'T FUCKING SAY that these people are carrying pure hydrogen on them. Observe his SECOND LINE : "These fuel cells are going to get their hydrogen from liquid fuels like gasoline, or diesel."
Second - Why not just shoot the soldier? BECAUSE if said soldier is among 10 other soldiers and a bullet hits him in the head, he dies, no one else. If it hits him in a tank of methanol, the above stated 10 soldiers WILL FUCKING BURN YOU RETARD.
Third - Please shut the fuck up. This is very cool tech and the parent poster was pointing out a perceived flaw. You tried to correct him and on every point and failed.

(Yes, even the third, nationalist, point about your total faith in the US Army!)

--

But... (1)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | more than 13 years ago | (#290968)

what happens if a bullet hits it and, assuming this is a hydrogen fuel cell, which seems likely, you would have a nice little blast
Webmaster - CoasterCount.com [coastercount.com]

Soldier of the future? (1)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 13 years ago | (#290969)

Yes, governments (militaries) have always sought out science as the provider of more lethal weapons and more efficient ways of killing people.

But what is this exactly? Fuel cell technology is a revolutionary concept that can change the world for the better in so many ways. It's incredibly frustrating to see it most eagerly developed for use in powering means to more accurrately destroy stuff.

Can't anything be done by people who believe in promoting peace and improving the human condition against this kind of crap? Is there any way to hinder the "science of war?"

Re:2-3 Pounds ? (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 13 years ago | (#290970)

Most Laptops weigh this much.

In fact, why couldn't you get this thing to power a laptop for a week? What's more, you wouldn't have to recharge; just refill with reactant and you're ready to go.

It doesn't make sense (1)

B.Assturd (416078) | more than 13 years ago | (#290971)

... to develop a technology for something that is now obsolete, that is the common ground soldier. Desert Storm proved that wars are best fought and won from the air, using precision weapons the minimize damage to surrounding areas. There is no place for the foot soldier anymore, Vietnam proved that.

Large-scale fuel processing for automobiles (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#290974)

For examples of large-scale fuel processing for automobiles, see Proton Energy Systems [protonenergy.com] .

On their site they have pictures of what a fuel cell vehicle gas station upgrade [protonenergy.com] will look like -- very cool!

airplanes and batteries... (2)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 13 years ago | (#290975)

Conventional wisdom has it that you can't bring a sealed lead-acid battery on board a commercial airplane. This isn't entirely true. As long as you can prove your battery is safe, they'll allow you to bring it onboard. A lot of manufacturers have downloadable certificates on their websites nowadays that state their batteries are safe for air travel. I've brought the lead-acid batteries for my Tascam DA-P1 and Sony M1 DAT machines on board several flights, including one to Australia in 1999. I wasn't even asked about them that time.

YMMV, but as long as you've got the documentation, you shouldn't have a problem.

- A.P.

--
Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

Yes they are for combat (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 13 years ago | (#290977)

The man-portable generator would power laser-range finders and heads-up displays used by soldiers in the future

says the legend on a picture of a soldier with rifle.

The lead sentence says

When 21st century soldiers suit up for the battlefield

More quotes:

The increased power density would allow soldiers to either reduce their load or greatly extend their missions

By then, we expect infantry soldiers to use a variety of electronic gear

...will allow the soldier to be aware of their location, as well as that of fellow soldiers

Did you read the article?

--

Hydrogen volatility. (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 13 years ago | (#290979)

This might come as a shock.. but Hydrogen is not 'highly explosive'. It will burn, yes, but only with the appropriate supply of oxygen. It's not like tnt, or other explosives that are ready to explode; they just need a certain amount of energy to start the reaction.

Hydrogen will burn.. you might think of the Hinenberg disaster? I turns out, after all these years, that what caused the explosive burning of the Hindenberg was not the hydrogen, but actually the coating used on the canvas covering of the blimp. It contained the ingredients for solid rocket fuel (unknown at the time).

Also, fuel cells like these don't have large supplies of compressed Hydrogen; they extract it from a hydrocarbon, methanol in this case I think. It's more efficient to carry fuel, and you don't mess with compressed canisters.

Military Aircraft (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#290980)

You may not be able to take a fuel-cell-powered computer on a civilian commercial aircraft. A military aircraft is a different matter -- well, some of them are designed to carry bombs..although the bombs are supposed to detonate externally.

Explosions (2)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 13 years ago | (#290981)

I've seen several posts about explosions.

First, in battle these guys are carrying grenades, ammo (from .223 to mortar rounds to 40mm grenades), (and probably explosives if I am an engineer.) I don't think a 3 pound power unit is going to turn effective soldiers into walking ordnance.

Second, the tank isn't going to have oxygen in it, so why would it explode? It seems like there would be a fireball where the fuel escapes, but that not nearly as big of a problem (like gut wound vs. singed uniform/missing eyebrows.) Not that it is trivial, but there are bigger fish to fry on the battlefield.

Come to think of it; if this thing could power effective friend/foe ID it would be well worth the risk.

-Peter


Re:Soldier of the future? (2)

eagl (86459) | more than 13 years ago | (#290983)

Remember that warfare is "merely" the last step taken when non-violent diplomacy fails to produce the desired effects. War is just another political tool, and the way to reduce it's use is to modify the national objectives and political behaviors.

War is supposed to be the last resort when all else fails. With that as a starting argument, it only makes sense that the instruments of war are as efficient as possible to get the job done in as short a time as possible with a minimum of undesirable disruption to either side of the conflict. Reducing the tools of the world's military forces to knives and clubs (or fists and feet) would simply cause the conflicts to drag on endlessly. Better to get it over with so non-violent diplomacy can continue.

Don't hinder the "science of war", come up with better diplomatic alternatives so war isn't necessary. Then back it up with a really big stick.

Re:But... (2)

Arker (91948) | more than 13 years ago | (#290984)

It's not like gasoline isn't much more horrible, and most slashdot readers probably drive around in machines containing over a hundred pounds of highly volatile liquid fuel that will burn or explode violently at the slightest spark.

Gasoline won't explode "at the slightest spark." Only in the movies.

It will, of course, burn, quite well under most circumstances. But those hollywood explosions are done with dynamite.

Gasoline, you see, burns quite slowly. Explosives burn very quickly.

Hydrogen is explosive, however the cell doesn't run on hydrogen, and it's not a particularly efficient explosive anyhow. It's main potential is for fusion.

Anyhow, the cell in the article uses methyl, poisonous alcohol. Hardly an explosive risk.


"That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (2)

|deity| (102693) | more than 13 years ago | (#290985)

Shooting someone in the face is just not as satisfying as making them into a flamming, screaming disaster. Sorry to many video games. The original post is mostly humor, but their could be problems with carring flamable material around a battle field.

This does make a good target if your a sniper and believe that your target may be wearing body armor. It's already located at about the center of mass for the person so if you actually miss the fuel cell you'll still probably take out your target.

What happens if this thing gets punctured by something besides a sniper, say for instance a little shrapnel. If the soldier doesn't realize it the flash from his gun, or nearby flame, could ignite the vapor depending on what liquid fuel is used.

Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (2)

|deity| (102693) | more than 13 years ago | (#290986)

Why would a soldier want to carry around canisters of flamable liquid in a battlefield?

These fuel cells are going to get their hydrogen from liquid fuels like gasoline, or diesel.

Seems like it would be a little dangerous to carry a fairly large container of gasoline on ones back while being shot at and dodging shrapnel. These would make easy targets for a sniper, just shoot it with a phosphorus tipped bullet and BAMMMM flaming soldier.

Re:But... (2)

JesseL (107722) | more than 13 years ago | (#290989)

Yep, or a magazine full of live ammo, or a hand grenade, or a shoulder fired rocket, etc... Soldiers aren't too unacustomed to carrying explosive/volitile/otherwise dangerous materials.

"2 to 3 pounds may sound like a lot" (2)

The_Messenger (110966) | more than 13 years ago | (#290990)

2 to 3 pounds may sound like a lot, but it gets more reasonable when you consider that it means not carrying a conventional battery or an AC adapter around.
It may sound like a lot to a geek, but these guys are trained to jog in +30-pound backpacks, so I wouldn't forsee problems with a battery that weighs as much as a large can of beans.

--

Re:But... (2)

Napokee (111187) | more than 13 years ago | (#290991)

What if the bullet hits you?

This could be used for Land Warrior... (2)

dvk (118711) | more than 13 years ago | (#290992)

The article didn't mention this anywhere, but what it seems ideally suited for is powering Land Warrior [army.mil] system - http://www.sbccom.army.mil/programs/lw/.

I don't have my other links to details now but could retrieve if anyone's interested (i used LW as an example of a wearable computer for User Interface Seminar - i bet the only person in the history of such classes to use LW for wearables example and Abrams' IVIS system for car computers example :)

Re:2-3 Pounds ? (2)

Ibby (130127) | more than 13 years ago | (#290993)

Try being a soldier, and carrying that weight. Any of it. Every pound becomes significant, readily...

The point is being missed by you, here. (2)

karmaflux (148909) | more than 13 years ago | (#291002)

Two or three pounds strapped to you won't really matter; in combat, you'll be carrying your M-16, which every soldier damn well knows the weight of, and you'll be wearing your Kevlar and LCE -- Load Carrying Equipment. With ammunition, full canteens, and a Big Heavy Helmet, you won't even notice the little computer battery behind you.


But there's something vital being missed here:

If bullets are hitting the soldier wearing this thing there is a vastly more immediate problem than "will my electronic device explode?" The questions consuming the soul of the servicemember will be "how can I stop getting shot?" and "who is shooting at me, that I may kill them?"
Somehow, I don't think the wheet! of a round whistling past my ear will induce deep concern for my computer equipment.


//KhM

//Now with bleach!

What about portable generators or other stuff now? (2)

btempleton (149110) | more than 13 years ago | (#291003)

I've been looking for a while for better sources of portable power, and hoping for a project like this. Fuel cells have been around for some time but not sold commercially because they are not commercially viable.

But I've been wondering if there's any way to get convenient power out off the grid that's portable, and can generate the 10-15 watts they are talking about for this project. A fuel cell that could run off typical camp stove fuels would of course do the trick.

But what about a tiny generator? How practical would a 12v generator that ran off camp stove fuel be? You couldn't wear it on your body, probably, but it could still have a lot of other application s for mobile equipment. Anybody heard of one of these?

Re:But... (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#291004)

I thought the Hindenburg burned so rapidly due to the aluminum paint the Nazi's used, rather than the Hydrogen gas

Bingo. The paint they used was very similar to, I love this, rocket fuel. It doesn't ignite until it hits a fairly high temperature (700C or thereabouts ?), but when it does...

--

Re:hydrogen less dangerous than gasoline (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#291005)

Hydrogen by itself carries far less energy than gas

Not completely correct. Per mole, hydrogen packs a much greater punch than gasoline; something like 5-10x, I can't remember exactly. The problem is that it can't be compressed as much, not even in liquid form (and storing liquid hydrogen presents all kinds of difficulties). So the Joules per mole is greater but the Joules per liter is at best on the order of 1/2 or 1/3.

Other than that, yeah, these things don't exactly pose a huge safety hazard to guys busy dealing with, say, bombs, shrapnel, and bullets aimed at their tender selves.

--

Re:The point is being missed by you, here. (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#291006)

that's still a bunch of flammable goodness in your gear

Earlier posts pointed out how there's very little hydrogen in the cell at any given time; it gets extracted from the methanol, which is not easily ignited.

these fuel cells had better be made extremely foolproof.

Certainly, but the universe is out there building better fools, the evil bastard. I suppose we here at /. will just have to do our patriotic duty and keep the worst and dimmest of them addicted to First Post's and Natalie Portman and hot grits so they'll never think to enlist. Damn, more trolls...

--

Re:It doesn't make sense (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#291007)

You can bomb it, obliterate it, bitch-slap it all to hell from the air, but the land isn't actually yours until you stick a chump with a rifle on it.

I should point out that in Desert Storm the air war, while amazingly effective, really just loosened the Iraqis up (ie, destroyed the entire C&C system) for the guys in tanks to come and finish pounding their asses flat. Nice piece of work, really.

--

Re:go Air Force (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#291008)

Methinks I sense a wee bit of hostility here. Maybe this'll cheer you up. Courtesy of Joke a Day [jokeaday.com] .

An Army grunt stands in the rain with a 35 lb pack on his back, 15lb weapon in hand, after marching 12 miles, and says "God, this is SHIT."

An Army Airborne grunt stands in the rain with a 45lb pack on his back weapon in hand, after jumping from an airplane and marching 18 miles, and says with a smile "God, this is THE shit."

An Army Airborne Ranger lies in the mud, 55lb pack on his back, weapon in hand, after jumping from a plane into the swamp and marching 25 miles at night past the enemy, and says with a grin,"God, I LOVE this shit!"

An Army Green Beret, Airborne/Ranger/Pathfinder qualified, kneels up to his nose in the stinking, infested mud of a swamp with a 65lb pack on his back and a weapon in both hands after jumping from an airplane into the ocean, swimming 10 miles to the swamp and killing an alligator, then crawling 30 miles through the brush to assault the enemy camp. He says with a passionate snarl, "God, gimmee Some MORE of this shit!"

An Air Force cadet sits in an easy chair in his air-conditioned, carpeted room and says,"The cable's out? What kind of shit is that?!?"

--

encumberance considerations (2)

omission9 (178213) | more than 13 years ago | (#291009)

2-3 pounds is absolutely nothing when you consider that a full canteen of water weighs about that much. Having spent some time in uniform having to carry all manner of things on my person across all sorts of terraine I can say that 2-3 is *nothing*. What counts most is how awkward these things are and if they can be assimilated into the rest of your equipment. As an aside, my understanding is that the batteries for stinger missiles are both heavy and awkward so maybe these things can be of use in more than 1 application. I don't know too much about stinger missiles though, I was a medic.>:)

Methanol - Hydrogen (2)

mother_superius (227373) | more than 13 years ago | (#291010)

fuel processor that converts methanol into hydrogen.

I'm not sure what the imperical formula for Methanol is, but I'm sure it's not only Hydrogen. Shouldn't there be other chemicals/elements left over too?

Not only that... (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 13 years ago | (#291011)

...the Air Force is the only service where the enlisted men, technicians, and grunts get to stay safely behind the lines while the officers go out and risk their necks getting shot at.

Sounds fair to me.

Re:pretty interesting (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 13 years ago | (#291012)

You (and the website you reference) have confused two wholly different technologies:

1. Fuel cells generate electricity by the action of a replaceable chemical fuel, without the usual intermediate step of burning the fuel to generate heat to spin generators. They are a proven technology and most of the R&D is going into finding ways to use new fuels or make them smaller or work at lower temperatures (say, below the BP of water -- most fuel cells only work at very high temperatures).

A fuel cell is not going to care whether its fuel is H or Deuterium because H and deuterium behave exactly the same in chemical reactions.

2. Cold fusion, which is a scam and doesn't exist and doesn't work. Nobody has ever demonstrated cold fusion. If they had done so they would have gotten a crapload of neutrons, and in all likelihood they would be dead.

This is not to say that cold fusion will remain forever impossible, only that nobody has ever demonstrated it. The current spin on the lack of neutrons seems to be that not only are they claiming a magic new way to fuse deuterium at low temperatures, they are magically fusing them in some new way that doesn't produce neutrons. Sorry, but I only swallow one magic trick per potential scam.

From the website:

As stated on Good Morning America, "It's either, you know, an ordinary chemical reaction that's not behaving the way we expect it to, or some kind of a nuclear reaction...It's neither one nor the other, so it really is just a genuine mystery right now."

A great mystery, all right, except to those of us who know some nuclear physics; but not so much of a mystery as to prevent them from soliciting funds for further "research." At least they are honest enough to admit that what they have might not be cold fusion, but I bet most of their investors didn't catch that disclaimer.

Re:Does this seem a little stupid to anyone else. (2)

Liquid-Gecka (319494) | more than 13 years ago | (#291015)

(Actually, I think this would be great for our (us being the US) soldiers because of the offensive capabilies it'd add - thermal imaging will let our snipers own theirs!)

Bah! I always knew our military was just a bunch of campers! =)

Fuel Cells (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#291016)

Just make sure the Chinese don't manage to get their hands on this technology... oh, nevermind, you can't take it on plaines.

Nitpick: This article isn't about a fuel cell! (3)

Myself (57572) | more than 13 years ago | (#291017)

The article is talking about a fuel processor, which produces the hydrogen which is then fed into a fuel cell. The fuel cell itself is existing tech, the innovation here is the processor.

Seems to me that this would have great applications elsewhere, say in remotely-located weather stations.

Negative mass? (3)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 13 years ago | (#291018)

a system weighing 10 times less than batteries soldiers currently carry

So I guess that's negative nine times the weight of current batteries.

Reminds me of stormtroopers (3)

HongPong (226840) | more than 13 years ago | (#291019)

For some reason with the fuel cells I think of the Imperial Stormtroopers...

Have you ever noticed that moderators usually knee-jerk moderate comments below #20 down? I suppose I should type more slowly. And they collectively have little sense of off the wall humor, I suppose that's why SpanishInquisition never posts anymore, I really liked him.

--

Smaller fuel cells (3)

loafy (442322) | more than 13 years ago | (#291020)

I heard a piece on the radio a few weeks ago about an even smaller fuel cell--about the size of a thimble--that could be used to fuel cellular phones... I dont recall if the technology was actually available now or not... I think that hydrogen fuel cells are the only real viable alternative energy source, ballard fuel cells [ballard.com] have been used in several large cities to power public transportation for some time now. Another advantage is that hydrogen in its liquified form can be distributed with little modification to todays gas distribution infastructure.

Wearable military computers. (4)

Liquid-Gecka (319494) | more than 13 years ago | (#291021)

These will not be used in battle for the time being. These are mostly for behind the lines type of service. One example I know of is a active repair utility. You can pull up all the documentation you need to repair a vehicle on the field without having to call or talk to somebody. You can also look at the schematic of something without carrying around piles of papers. And when your underneath something trying to put it back together, its really nice to just pull up the information you need on a wearable computer instead of having to continuously remove yourself to look at a laptop or desktop computer.
The same ideas could be applied to medical personnel. Having a complete online medical resource kit could be really useful when in the middle of nowhere trying to repair bullet wounds.
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