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Structural batteries to lighten load for frontline soldiers

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February 19, 2012

BAE Systems is developing structural batteries for the military (Photo: Shutterstock)

BAE Systems is developing structural batteries for the military (Photo: Shutterstock)

Battery life is a crucial issue on any portable device drawing power - from cell phones to something as big as a car. Of course, the larger the battery, the more it weighs. Structural batteries which store power in the parts that make up the device are seen as a solution to this issue and BAE systems is working on such systems with the aim of lightening the load for frontline soldiers.

BAE Systems is developing structural batteries for both military and consumer applications including chargeable components for a Le Mans prototype race car. This is accomplished by merging battery chemistry into composite materials that can be molded into complex 3D shapes that form the structure of a device. The structure can be plugged in to recharge, then provide power to the device in a manner similar to a traditional battery.

For the military, BAE is developing structural batteries as components of the electronic gear in soldiers' rucksacks, which can currently weigh up to 76 kilograms (167 lbs). This approach would eliminate the need for traditional batteries, which add to the weight in the bag.

Structural batteries can also be used in addition to traditional batteries to provide longer run time without adding to the weight of a particular device.

BAE Systems currently exploits nickel-based battery chemistry to power its structural batteries. The company is looking into integration of lithium-ion and lithium-polymer chemistry for use in consumer electronics, as well demonstrating the ability to store useful energy in composites such as carbon fiber and glass-reinforced plastic.

Future applications might include fabric, which expands applications from hard-structured objects to more lightweight applications such as tents, or even the rucksacks carried by soldiers - as opposed to just the electronic gear carried within them.

Beyond the military, BAE is working with race car manufacturer Lola to use structural batteries to power some of the on-board electronic systems for the zero-emission, 850 horsepower Le Mans prototype car, the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV.

BAE Systems is not the only research organization working with structural batteries. For instance, researcher Emile Greenhalgh at Imperial College London has been working to build a car constructed from structural batteries for several years - more information on that project can be found in the video below.

Source: BAE Systems

About the Author
Enid Burns Enid began her freelance writing career reviewing video games after spending several hundred dollars upgrading a DOS-based machine to get Syndicate to run. Since then she's added coverage of mobile phones, consumer electronics and online advertising to her writing portfolio. Essentially, she's fascinated by shiny objects and making them light up.   All articles by Enid Burns
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5 Comments

I suppose it might help but it makes carrying spare batteries difficult.

Slowburn
20th February, 2012 @ 01:41 am PST

I had an idea similar to this only for a Hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle (specifically motorcycle) where the frame, made up of tubular metal or composite material was the Hydrogen tank.

KushSmoka420
20th February, 2012 @ 01:22 pm PST

re; KushSmoka420

I like the idea of using frame structure as fuel tank but you have to remember the stressis it will be under in a crash.

Slowburn
21st February, 2012 @ 04:42 am PST

All batteries fail after so many charges. If the battery is the car itself, that could get real expensive. And it would not cut down on wiring much, we already use the body of the car as the return to ground. In fact, that is why car bodies rust out no matter how well they are rust proofed. We cause galvanic action by using the body instead of wiring to return to the battery.

kellory
21st February, 2012 @ 08:02 pm PST

Yes, this is exactly where we need to go. The tag line: "The car is the battery" is finally looking good. Those duffuses in Detroit who didn't believe us in 2010 (or have the foresight to imagine this type of solution) deserve to be where they are: unemployed. They still have billions to deploy but they're not sure what to invest in. Have American investors lost their nerve? Yes.

There are several other mechanical and structural steps that can be taken to augment this type of technology but we're not giving away our secrets for free anymore.

Mirmillion
25th February, 2012 @ 10:02 pm PST
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