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DARPA funds $1.7 million for new ultracapacitor

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Maxwell Technologies receives DARPA award to create a lighter, longer-lasting battery pack for the U.S. soldier on the go.

The U.S. military has been on a mission to give more energy independence to our troops—more freedom from dangerous fuel runs and bulky generators. Solar power, perhaps even with tents, could help, but how about storage and the burden of heavy battery packs?

DARPA (U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) awarded Maxwell Technologies a $1.7 million contract to address just that. The company announced last week they will work with the U.S. Navy and the University of Massachusetts to create an energy storage device that is a cross between a battery and ultracapacitor.

Ultracapacitors can quickly take in and release a charge, and can be charged many times over again, with much longer lifecycles than lithium-ion batteries. But they can't hold as much energy (only about 5 percent as much as batteries). The project will be to combine an advanced capacitor module, battery pack, and power management electronics into one lightweight device.

David Schramm, Maxwell's president, said in a statement:

This program will further demonstrate the synergy between batteries and ultracapacitors, and, more importantly, lead to improved energy storage solutions to support the effectiveness and safety of our armed forces personnel.

According to Maxwell, soldiers often carry more than 60 pounds of batteries to power radios, night vision goggles, computers and other portable electronic equipment. A hybrid ultracapacitor would be smaller, lighter and be able to withstand more extreme environmental conditions. Currently, however, hybrid ultracaps can't power electronics nearly as long as batteries.

The first phase of the project will last about a year, after which DARPA may provide an additional $8 million for further develop the device.

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Via: CNET
Image: Maxwell Technologies

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure