Stranger Than Science: Fuel Cells for Military Might

Just when it seemed that soldiers in today’s military had enough combat machinery to master, Massachusetts technology development firm TIAX has completed the second phase of a project to develop an advanced fuel cell power source for a prototype “military exoskeleton.”

Cambridge, Massachusetts – September 16, 2004 [] In this case, the exoskeleton is a wearable robotic suit with hydraulically powered joints and limbs that move in unison with the joints and limbs of the human lower body. The prototype exoskeletons under development should help soldiers to bear heavy loads over long distances, wear heavier and more protective body armor, forcefully access enemy structures and use more powerful weapons. Who else, but the U.S. Department of Defense’s shadowy and secretive DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) could have awarded such a contract. TIAX was awarded the fuel cell power supply component of the project back in 2001. The company is developing a high-efficiency power source capable of supporting the free-piston hydraulic exoskeleton for 4 to 24 hours. The power source must handle wide variations between steady and peak loads, while remaining portable. The next phase of development will involve adding features to further improve performance and integrating the hydraulic power source with a prototype exoskeleton.
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