Fuel Cells for Mobile Warfare Applications

With their constant technological and efficiency advances, it’s no surprise clean energy technologies may find their way into some non-traditional applications like providing mobile, portable power for soldiers.

Southborough, Massachusetts – May 7, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Protonex Technology Corporation, a manufacturer of long duration power sources for portable and remote applications, received a $2.6 million award from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to further the development of a power solution for individual soldiers on extended field missions. The technology is built on Protonex’s NGen Portable Power System, a durable, compact and lightweight power source that combines a PEM fuel cell power generation system with a chemical hydride hydrogen storage system. Protonex is partnered with Millennium Cell, a major subcontractor in this development program. Millennium Cell will provide their patented Hydrogen On Demand storage technology to Protonex under an existing joint development and licensing agreement. The contract was awarded under the Dual Use Science and Technology (DUST) Program established by the National Defense Authorization. The DUST program promotes the development of dual use technologies with application both in the military and commercial sectors. Initiatives are evaluated based on their viability and potential product transition from military use into commercial markets. “Current power systems constitute a substantial portion of the weight load for the special operations warfighter,” said Dr. Thomas Reitz of the Air Force Research Laboratory. “Fuel cell power generators have considerable potential to significantly decrease this burden.” Protonex has been working with the military since 2000 to develop long duration power solutions for portable applications; and is in the process of commercializing a family of products in the power range of 10 to 1000 Watts. A soldier on a 3-day mission, for example, would need to carry nearly 30 pounds of batteries to equal the power of one Protonex portable fuel cell system. Protonex didn’t say what a typical soldier on a 3-day mission needs that amount of power for. Weighing less than 5 pounds with fuel, Protonex said their products offer key advantages over conventional batteries such as increased operating times and fast refueling in the field. “Our NGen fuel cell technology is an effective solution to soldier power problems,” said Greg Cipriano, Vice President of Business Development at Protonex. “This DUST award is a vote of confidence from the military in our ability to provide power solutions for critical portable and remote applications.”
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