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  (Source: Elite Nomads)
Army looks for ways to use fuel cells with non-petroleum sources

The United States Army has started the development and application of hydrogen fuel-cell technology to their vehicles. The first vehicle to receive this technology will be the workhorse M1 Abrams battle tank. This type of tank requires vast amounts of onboard computing power for sensors, computing equipment, battle command technology and other electronic equipment, so using fuel cell technology would be able to provide greater electrical power than the current setup, which is a diesel engine/alternator arrangement. 

In addition, the use of a fuel cell would make the tank's motor run in near silence. This is a particularly helpful feature since enemy combatants can hear the current model's 1,000+hp multi fuel turbine engine from miles away, and with a silent engine, the tank can sneak into certain territory relatively unheard. 

The use of a fuel cell would be convenient as well because the hydrogen would be extracted from JP-8 diesel fuel onboard and converted into electricity, meaning that "the current refueling infrastructure would remain in place." 

As of now, the testing of fuel cells in tanks exists only in the laboratory. The idea is to find a way to power multiple fleets of military vehicles with fuel cells "that use non-petroleum sources." There have been problems with having to deliver fuel through dangerous war zones and across two large countries. Providing security for the transport vehicles to assure that they get to the desired destination in order to fuel the tanks has become more than a thorn in their side, and fuel cell technology could possibly eliminate these worries. 

This isn't the Army's first effort toward greener technology, though. In May of this year, HP was in the process of developing a "Dick Tracy-like" watch that uses solar panels for the U.S. military. Also, a new hybrid Army aircraft that resembles a blimp and can travel for three weeks at a time unmanned, was designed and will be sent to Afghanistan by mid 2011. 

 



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RE: Efficiency of fuel cells with diesel?
By MozeeToby on 7/13/2010 12:04:27 PM , Rating: 3
Is the diesel engine that powers the alternator the same as the engine that mechanically powers the tank? I was under the impression that the M1 had a gas turbine engine as the main engine. The fact that M1's run on JP-8 these days rather than diesel makes it seem to me that this must be a separate system.

So you're talking about replacing a complex electromechanical system (basically a big diesel generator) with a relatively simple (if currently experimental) solid state device. It'd be like removing a Hummer's worth of complexity from the system and replacing it with a giant battery.


By RjBass on 7/13/2010 1:02:33 PM , Rating: 5
The M1's engine can receive several different types of fuel. When I was stationed at Ft. Riley our tanks used JP8, but when I went to Mississippi for a mission their tanks used diesel, and I had heard that Kuwait was using standard unleaded in theirs, although I can't confirm that. And to answer your question, its the same power train for both the alternator and the rest of the vehicle.


RE: Efficiency of fuel cells with diesel?
By Ammohunt on 7/13/2010 2:19:11 PM , Rating: 2
The M1 has a turbine engine(read jet engine) JP-8 and Diesel are pretty much the same fuel.


RE: Efficiency of fuel cells with diesel?
By knutjb on 7/13/2010 3:29:11 PM , Rating: 4
Turbines can be tuned to run on the widest variety of fuels. Power plants frequently use natural gas. I have seen turbines run on alcohol, gasoline, NG, diesel, kerosene, a wide variety of jet fuels. B-36s had booster jets on the wing tips running on av gas. If its a liquid or it can be vaporized and it burns, a turbine will run on it.

The most likely reason to run JP8 is that aircraft use it so its plentiful, it runs much cleaner than diesel fuel, doesn't gel easily, doesn't smell so strong once burnt, isn't very smokey, and likely helps the turbine live longer.


By JediJeb on 7/14/2010 2:27:43 PM , Rating: 2
Even when my Dad was in the Army in the late 60s they had multi-fuel engines in the 2 1/2 ton trucks that would run on gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, or just about anything else. I believe it was and engine that was mainly diesel in style but I think lower in compression so it would take the gasoline. The military has been using multi-fuel tech for decades because it allows you to stay mobile with any fuel you can grab at the moment.


By Shining Arcanine on 7/13/2010 11:53:05 PM , Rating: 3
A gas turbine engine can run off any fossil fuel, not just diesel/JP-8. You could use olive oil as fuel if you wanted to use it.


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