High-tech military gear, carried by soldiers along with the 20 to 40 pounds of batteries they require, one day could have a lighter-than-air power source.
A portable, hydrogen-generating energy system would transform jet fuel into hydrogen that could power everything from laptops to communications gear for soldiers in the battlefield.
“The military, for very good reasons, can operate all of its hardware – from tanks to naval ships – off of one single fuel, JP-8, which is similar to civilian aviation fuel,” says Jonathan Wenzel, assistant research engineer in chemical and biological engineering, who is working under the direction of Sunggyu “K.B.” Lee, professor of chemical and biological engineering. “Jet fuel, like gasoline, is a mixture of hundreds of different chemicals that contain hydrogen and carbon, called hydrocarbons.”
The system works by reacting jet fuel with water to produce hydrogen. Small amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and ethane are also released during the process.
A small scalable unit could be built to produce a small amount of hydrogen. Or the process could be scaled up to provide enough energy to power an entire navy ship. In addition, the system could generate sanitary drinking water with the addition of a fuel cell.
The project is supported by the U.S. Army and DRS-TSI, which provides information technology solutions to government clients.