Soldiers in modern warfare have to carry an increasing amount of electronics, and commanding troops and drones through tablets is also becoming popular aside from the applications of tactical lights, night vision goggles, radios, and laser pointers. Thus, the supply of power has become an important indicator in maintaining combat power for troops, which prompted the US Army to fully develop wearable fuel cells in recent years.
The Army Futures Command (AFC) started the development of a type of wearable fuel cell called the Soldier Wearable Power Generator (SWPG) from 2020. The SWPGs must be equipped with a dynamic charging function, and the cells are able to serve as fuel with the help of windshield washer fluids.
The research team of the C5ISR Center from the Combat Capability Development Command under AFC had developed a SWPG prototype in early 2020, which has been extensively used in infantry drills during this year and last year.
“We’re aiming to deliver a simple, easy-to-use way for Soldiers to extend battery life and keep moving in the field by developing wearable fuel cells,” commented Shailesh Shah, a chemical engineer at the C5ISR Center. According to Shah, general windshield cleaners can be used as a replenishing fuel for the SWPG.
Through the new industrial technology that surfaced in recent years, the SWPG is able to convert windshield washer fluids into hydrogen for fuel cells, which not only eliminates expenses and manpower for logistics units in purchasing and distributing new cell fuels, but also exempts soldiers from having to carry a large volume of reserve cells.
Many soldiers have assisted in the testing of the SWPG during Army exercises between 2020 and 2021. The development team commented that the prototype of SWPG can handle a standard 72-hour mission for soldiers, as well as eliminate 5.4kg of reserve cells.
The new ENVG-B recently equipped by the US Army, as well as the IVAS that is currently under development, and the increasingly popular micro drone systems, all require power. Just like the breakout of WWII, the armed forces could not initiate attacks without fuel, and soldiers will require power to be combative in the future, which is why the development of SWPG is also the core of the overall future soldier plan.
(Cover photo source: US Army)