Army scientists scout energy solutions for the battlefield
Image: Sarah S. Bedair, Ph.D., an electronics engineer with U.S. Army Research Laboratory, is adjusting the settings on ink-jet printer used to deposit nanomaterials onto the surfaces of micro-devices.
What if scientists and engineers could scavenge energy for warfighters, like bottom feeders scavenge in the ocean?
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, along with the Army science and technology community, is pursuing novel technology aspects of the Army's Operational Energy Strategy.
Energy Scavenging is just one way ARL experts are getting more from existing resources, said Dr. Edward Shaffer, who is the Energy and Power Division Chief at the lab. Energy harvesting is critical to realize "net zero" energy use, a key element of the Army's Operational Energy Strategy.
There are a number of technology areas enabling operational energy, such as energy storage, alternative energy sources, high-density power converters and micro grids that the lab is pursuing.
Department of Defense operational energy is an emerging area being shaped. It is what is required to train, move, and sustain forces, weapons, and equipment for military operations. It accounted for 75 percent of all energy used by DOD in 2009, according to the Energy website for DOD.
Related story: Military Calls for Energy Innovation, Less Foreign Oil
It was in May 2011, when the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, Plans and Programs defined an operational energy strategy, and then published Operational Energy for the warfighter, a guide that would transform the way the DOD consumes energy in military operations.
"We want to develop technologies to enable future energy networks for the warfighter," Shaffer said. "The challenge is to develop something that could be valuable to Soldiers 15 to 20 years from now -- based on what we know today."
A past history of success in areas like electrochemistry is "informing the way forward for other technologies," he said.
"In the recent past, ARL electrochemists discovered a way to increase the duration of high-energy batteries with an electrolyte additive. Now, other teams are thinking about high-efficiency, miniature power supplies that could give small, unmanned systems bursts of power "on-demand," Shaffer said.
"Technology is ever changing," he said.
The basic research at the laboratory now will help the Army to be better in the next conflict, said John Carroll, action officer for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Power and Energy Technology Focus Team. "The fuel challenge won't go away. We have to fix it."
Related story: The US Army's Great Drive for Renewable Power
Shaffer originated the concept of Smart Battlefield Energy on-Demand, or SmartBED.
"SmartBED is one way we think Soldiers would be able to link up to the power they need. It will ultimately bring complex pieces together -- generator, solar systems and energy storage -- in a flexible, resilient way into an energy network," said Carroll, who retired from the Navy as a nuclear propulsion engineer before coming to ARL.
"The essence of SmartBED is being able to get energy seamlessly when and where it is needed, but yet not wasting it," Shaffer said. "Currently, we waste energy and it limits availability because often a single power source is tied directly to a single load."
We want Soldiers to plug into the energy they need to keep their sources, batteries and devices topped off, yet drawing energy only as needed," Shaffer said. "SmartBED is designed to improve energy capacity for Soldiers while they are at base camp or otherwise on the move."
Shaffer has a wide view of the energy needs across Army, DOD and interagency forums that explore complimentary ways of addressing energy and power technology gaps and reduce duplicated efforts, including the DOD Energy and Power Community of Interest and the Interagency Advanced Power Group that includes agencies like the Department of Energy and NASA.
Read more in Energy Digital: The Military Issue
These communities are comprised of scientists, engineers, subject matter experts, technologists and program managers with a common interest in promoting innovative energy and power solutions for the nation. "One of the good things is to be able to see the flow of technology and communicate at each level," Carroll said. "We come together as a science and technology community and see what investments are necessary to better get Program Executive Offices and Program Managers the operational energy tools they need when they need it."
The Army acknowledges energy and power challenges to its operational energy concept and strategy, beyond technological improvement -- there are cultural, policy and procedural concerns that leaders are addressing. There are ongoing research initiatives within the Army to explore alternatives and technology improvements in order to offset long-standing issues, like delivering large amounts of JP8 to the front lines, Carroll said. The good news is that within and beyond the Army there are partners that are finding solutions and pushing technologies ahead together more smartly, he said.
At ARL, the future is a seamless energy architecture that begins with concepts like SmartBED, Long-lived Power and Fuel-Reforming for better energy convergence.
ARL will share a series of four stories that focus on far-reaching concepts of the Army operational energy strategy. The next article in the series will focus on Smart BED. Scientists and engineers at ARL forecast solutions that empower and protect Soldiers into the future with a portfolio of basic and applied science.
SOURCE: US Army
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.