By Courtney E. Howard
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - U.S. Army researchers have awarded a contract to UltraCell Corp. in Livermore, Calif., to help further the development of portable power options for soldiers.
The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center’s (CERDEC) Army Power Division at Fort Monmouth, N.J., is paying for UltraCell to accelerate design and production of the company’s XX25, a 25-watt reformed methanol fuel cell, which Army leaders plan to use as a soldier power device.
The UltraCell XX25 is intended not only to operate in extreme temperatures, but also to withstand severe shock and vibration. Also of interest to the Army, the fuel cell weighs considerably less than military rechargeable batteries currently available.
The XX25 offers as much as a 75 percent weight advantage over rechargeable batteries in the field, based on a 72-hour mission at 20 watts, UltraCell officials say.
“This award reflects the continued commitment of CERDEC in the development of soldier power fuel-cell units for military adaptation and transition,” notes Beth Bostic, CERDEC fuel-cell team leader.
The XX25, like UltraCell’s other units, sports a patented reformed methanol fuel-cell (RMFC) system that internally generates hydrogen from a concentrated methanol solution. As a result, the compact fuel cell cartridges offer the power density of a hydrogen fuel cell while using low-cost methanol fuel.
UltraCell’s XX25 methanol micro fuel-cell system will be capable of powering a ruggedized laptop computer for as long as three working days on one fuel cell cartridge. The XX25 can be configured with larger fuel volumes for use in such stationary applications, remote video monitoring for weeks at a time.
“We are encouraged by the continued interest of CERDEC and the U.S. military in the XX25,” says James Kaschmitter, chief executive officer of UltraCell, “It supports our current efforts to bring the unit to full production later this year.”