Army researchers ask Protonex Technology to develop soldier-worn power-management

Oct. 29, 2013
NATICK, Mass., 29 Oct. 2013. Wearable power experts at Protonex Technology Corp. in Southborough, Mass., will develop soldier-worn power-management systems under terms of a $2.2 million contract from the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass.
NATICK, Mass., 29 Oct. 2013. Wearable power experts at Protonex Technology Corp. in Southborough, Mass., will develop soldier-worn power-management systems under terms of a $2.2 million contract from the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass.

Army researchers are awarding the contract to Protonex as part of the Soldier-Borne Power Sources program, which seeks to develop miniature soldier-wearable power electronics and data technology for wearable power management.

Protonex specializes in fuel cell power for portable, remote, and mobile applications in the 100 to 1,000-Watt range. The company uses patented proton exchange membrane (PEM) and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technologies to build small, lightweight fuel cell systems. Protonex has developed several products for military, commercial, and consumer applications.

Army researchers are asking Protonex to expand on the company's products such as the SPM-611, which is designed to reduce the number and variety of batteries that today's foot soldiers need. The system also actively monitors and manages the warfighter's power usage.

The Protonex SPM technology combines efficient power conversion, equipment power management, and energy harvesting technology in one product that is able to withstand the harsh operating conditions of military field use.

The unit powers many kinds of man-packable military equipment, recharges a soldier’s or squad’s batteries, and adjusts to changing mission conditions or requirements, company officials say.

The SPM technology manages and prioritizes battery usage; powers man-worn and man-packable gear; recharges military and commercial batteries; optimizes solar and alternative power sources; monitors power sources and loads, alerting warfighter to problems; dynamically adjusts to changing mission needs; and provides smart cable identification to configure ports automatically.

The SPM-611 has six universal power ports to power devices, manage energy sources, and charge as many as five batteries simultaneously. Two ports can power equipment at 5 to 33 volts DC. Two other devices can be powered at 15 volts.

The unit also displays port status, provides SMBus and USB connectivity for set and forget charging, indicates state-of-charge, monitors battery health, and provides mission profiling and configuration. Two of the unit's ports can harvest power from solar panels, primary batteries, automobile batteries, and other power sources.

For more information contact Protonex Technology online at www.protonex.com, or the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center at www.army.mil/info/organization/natick.

About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

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