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back to article German methanol unit wins Pentagon portable-power prize

The US defence department has announced the winner of its "Wearable Power Prize", a contest to develop a portable powerpack which could lessen the crippling load of batteries carried by modern soldiers. The $1m purse has been taken by US firm DuPont, partnered with Germany's SFC (Smart Fuel Cell). The prize, inaugurated last …

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Max
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Hmmm....

This sounds promising - 2kW/hr from a mere 4 kilos of gadgetry is quite an achievement. If this technology truly becomes field-proven (and chances are it will, being deployed "in the field") then all kinds of non-military gadets could benefit too. I seem to remember a methanol-fuelled laptop though, I think from Toshiba, and that was utter crap. Let's hope this thing really works.

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Joke

"not...unacceptably hazardous" ?

I wonder --- suppose something snags the pin on one of those grenades, and it goes off close by the fuel cell. The shrapnel could rupture the cell, leaking methanol, which might then ignite. This could indeed lead to a hazardous situation!

Mine's the teflon one with the kevlar inserts.

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Anonymous Coward

Good Stuff

Yeah, those early "laptop" fuel cells wered messy things. But this is good - and methanol too - no expensive, inefficient hydrogen required (internal chemistry notwithstanding).

Toshiba's recent efforts with batteries and recharging times are pretty impressive, though, so they've come a long way.

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Black Helicopters

@bob, mon!

I know it was a joke, but some readers will actually think you were serious, so allow me to clarify.

Firstly, how many times have hand granade pins popped/fallen/been pulled out accidently (in real life, not in the movies) - given the hundreds of thousands of troops deployed in the field over, say, the last two decades you'd expect a few if it was a problem. How many? None.

Secondly, what about the direct effects - the wearer or carrier of said hand grenade isn't going to like it going off, especially in company (as soldiers normally are) and in a vehicle (with petrol/diesel tank) or next to other more dangerous munitions (which occurs frequently). So a fuel cell hardly registers on the risk scale.

Thirdly - have you seen methanol burn? Frankly, it's the kind of stuff you can stamp out with your foot if the puddle is small enough - I've seen worse flambe's.

So realistically (as opposed to books, films and user-submitted jokes), there's no problem.

Black Helicopters - because fuel cells and batteries would both be safe to transport by air.

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Happy

RE: bob, mon!

Seeing as the current US frag grenade, the M67, has a lethal radius of 5m, a casualty radius of 15m (i.e., you are so FUBAR you will not be taking part in any further activities that day), and is quite capable of delivering serious shrapnel wounds at 200M+, I'd be a lot more worried about the grenade than a little methanol fire!

A more likely problem is methanol is it's confusion with alcohol - I can see soldiers happily siphoning off supplies to make moonshine and poisoning themselves!

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Anonymous Coward

Methanol is fun

Its flame is so pale you can't see it in bright daylight. The only way you can tell a tanker of it is on fire is when the superstructure starts to melt like candle wax (or an IR camera...)

There's a tale of a russian tank crew who went AWOL with their vehicle and were found (literally) blind drunk on wood alcohol they'd traded for their T-64 (it was a while back). Phear the squaddies trading their ordnance for enough methanol to run their iPods... ;-)

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Running on Sarin, are we?

Hardly! But methanol IS a nerve poison. Here's a snippet and a link to the Canadian government site it comes from:

In one study, symptoms of blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, nausea and skin problems were reported in teachers aides exposed to duplicating fluid containing 99% methanol (Frederick et al., 1984). Individual aides worked as little as 1 hr/day for 1 day a week to 8 hrs/day for 5 days/wk. The workers’ total exposure duration was not mentioned. A dose-response relationship was observed between the self-reported amount...

http://oehha.ca.gov/air/chronic_rels/pdf/67561.pdf

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@matt bryant and A.C.

Have I seen methanol burn? Yes.

Have I seen the noble-hero-saves-his-buddies-by-falling-on-the-live-grenade scene? Yes.

Do you really know what "Joke Alert" means? I'm not so sure.

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