U.S. Army and NASA Have Interest in AU Battery Charging Systems Research

Published: Aug 14, 2006 4:33:26 PM
Media Contact: Cheryl Cobb, cobbche@auburn.edu, 334.844.2220

AUBURN - In today's high-tech military, a platoon of soldiers goes through nearly 650 AA-size batteries on any given five-day mission, and most are non-rechargeable throwaways.

On Aug. 23, researchers in Auburn University's Space Research Institute (SRI), along with their industrial partner Radiance Technologies Inc., are demonstrating a technology that may provide the military with a reliable system for supplying its soldiers in the field with more efficient and rechargeable batteries.

"Soldiers use batteries for weapons sighting equipment, field computers, Global Positioning Systems and other equipment," said Henry Brandhorst, SRI director.

"The volume of batteries used in today's military is astonishing and because they can't be recharged and used in multiple applications, it creates a logistical nightmare,"

For the past three years this research team has worked to develop small, quiet, portable and reliable battery recharging technologies based on the longstanding and proven Stirling engine converter.

"The free-piston Stirling converter is a technology that has existed for more than 40 years," Brandhorst said. "It uses heat from an external source -- usually a diesel engine -- and converts this heat to electrical power. It has only two moving parts and because the external heat can come from a multitude of sources, this technology is a reliable basis for military and other defense-related applications."

The research team has refined this technology and reliable and quiet battery recharging systems have been developed as small as 35 watts up to 25,000 watts, according to Brandhorst. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also funded a five kilowatt project at AU to the tune of $2.6 million for possible space power applications of these recharging systems.

On Aug. 23, U.S. Army officials will examine an expanded 160 watt project for possible application to supporting soldiers in the field.

The AU-developed technology has proven itself in more than 500 hours of laboratory testing and is capable of generating enough electrical power to charge six AA batteries every 15 minutes, Brandhorst notes.

"This means that more than 150 AA batteries can be charged for each pound of propane fuel used," Brandhorst said. "We believe that this technology has the potential to greatly increase the efficiency of supplying American soldiers in the field with more efficient and reliable battery power. Moreover, it will reduce the military's dependence on diesel generators and other fossil fuel sources."

The demonstration is set for 8:30a.m. - 3 p.m. at AU's Leach Science Center.