DOE_DOD_13784498875_75190c9069_o-small.jpg
DOE_DOD_9525949266_59ca761f4e_o.jpg
DOE_DOD_12778602363_33b8fb582e_o.jpg
DOE_DOD_9789184176_914ae289e6_o.jpg
DOE_DOD_13784498875_75190c9069_o-small.jpg

energy R&D, on the move: the US military


SCROLL DOWN

energy R&D, on the move: the US military


Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), on Defense Energy Needs

Many conventional energy technologies and developmental efforts also have significant military and national security implications. The ongoing efforts of the military to dramatically reduce its energy consumption are both driving sponsorship of energy R&D and simultaneously allowing the DoD to act as an “early adopter”piloting the use of civilian energy innovations prior to more widespread commercial use. Combined, Defense-wide spending in 2012 on energy research, development, testing, and demonstration alone was $1 billionthough even this was but 1 percent of its total innovation budget. Of course, there is strong precedent here. The US militaryfrom R&D, to procurement, and a massive ability to scale and deploy technologyhas long been an early supporter of game-changing technological innovations, including internet telecommunications, global positioning systems, and solid-state transistors. 

Extreme energy reliability and performance demands put the US military at the leading edge of implementing energy innovation. Where there is overlap with civilian needs, technologies that may still be “near at hand” for other commercial markets may already be deployed and useful on military bases and in forward-deployed locations. Other military energy innovation may be more narrowly targeted at a particular tactical edgefor example, directed energy weapons or rail gun technology. Taken together, the DoD, along with the DOE and other interagency partners, stands well positioned to lead, develop, and implement emerging energy strategy initiatives. Just as the US Navy’s interagency, industry, and national leadership drove the development of nuclear energy in the twentieth century, the DoD’s unique position as a sea, air, and land consumer of energy offers a rich opportunity to operationalize viable alternate fuels, cleaner energy sources, or game-changing energy technology. 

 

DOE_DOD_9525949266_59ca761f4e_o.jpg

Defense - Available Today


The Defense Department has funded an astonishing amount of today’s most remarkable technology going back decades.

— Susan Hockfield, MIT president emerita 

Defense - Available Today


The Defense Department has funded an astonishing amount of today’s most remarkable technology going back decades.

— Susan Hockfield, MIT president emerita 

photos: DOE/flickr

Navy

Stern flaps

The Navy began installing stern flaps in 2009 on amphibious ships and other combatants in an effort to make ships more fuel efficient and save up to $450,000 in fuel costs per ship annually. Stern flaps are passive surfaces, analogous to the spoiler on a race car or airplane winglets, that induce planar flow around the ship’s hull, reducing the drag and visible signature otherwise created from wake vortices. They are an excellent example of the Navy incorporating a proven, commercially available fuel-saving technology. 

 

Hull coatings

Marine growth such as biofilm or barnacles adds weight and increases drag. The Navy estimates that subsequent reductions in ship fuel efficiency and increased maintenance needs cost $1 billion annually, reduce vessel speeds by up to 10 percent, and poten- tially compromise acoustic stealth. Hull biofouling-prevention coatings therefore reduce costs and emissions while improving operational capability. And while many conventional biofouling treatments rely on toxic biocides, ongoing R&D aims to achieve more effective and environmentally benign results. Examples include biomimetic hull surface patterning and a class of dipolar ionic molecules that naturally exhibit both positive and negative charge. Advances here are particularly compelling as they could also benefit the broader global commercial shipping industry. 

 

 

 

 

Hybrid-electric drives for large combattants

The Navy has incorporated fuel-efficient hybrid-electric propulsion technology onto several of its next-generation big-deck amphibious assault ships: for example, the USS America (LHA-6) and the USS Tripoli (LHA-7), which are part of what the Navy calls its now-in-development, America-class amphibious assault ships. The hybrid drive allows the ship to propel itself using either electric motors paired to a diesel generator or a traditional gas turbine engine. Doing so reduces fuel use—thereby extending operational time between refuelings—by allowing the gas turbine to spend more time operating in the higher power bands where it is most efficient: electric motors help propel the ship at speeds up to around 12 knots, while the conventional gas turbine engines take over at higher speeds. At the same time, the diesel generators that feed the hybrid drive’s electric motors can more efficiently provide onboard standby power for many of the ship’s systems such as sensors, weapons, and other electronics. In 2009, USS Makin Island (LHD-8) became the first US Navy amphibious assault ship to feature a unique hybrid propulsion system that relies on two large gas turbines or two diesel electric motors. Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class destroyers are also now set be retrofit with hybrid-electric propulsion technology. 

 

Voyage planning software

Smart Voyage Planning (SVP) is a capability deployed as a software application: it uses fuel curves, weather, and ocean current data to plan optimal transit routes that minimize fuel usage. SVP capitalizes on real-time data and computing power to plot routes that have the potential to save 4 percent in annual fleet fuel cost. 

Related: Pew Charitable Trusts on Defense energy innovation →

Related: Pew on US Military base energy use →

 

Marine Corps 

ExFOB

The US Marine Corps’ Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB) collection of equipment is focused on water and energy efficiency when establishing a FOB during expeditionary operations at the small-unit level. Energy conservation systems range from lightweight solar panels to innovative adapters, mitigating the need to carry several batteries. These systems help to lessen the Marine Corps’ dependence on liquid-fuel generators and logistics requirements.

Army 

Soldier power management systems

The Army has deployed the Squad Power Manager, a charging system that provides a centralized power source and access to the variety of man-packable equipment that soldiers now carry: GPS, multiple radio systems, night vision, and PDAs. Each can be connected to standard-issue wearable batteries alongside lightweight 10- and 20-watt solar blankets that weigh just a few ounces. This system improves flexibility and reduces the need to carry multiple, semidepleted batteries for each device.

Related: Proceedings of the Hoover Institution Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy's 2012 conference of senior Defense energy leadership, "Powering the Armed Forces" →


 
I could not be more proud of what the military has done over these past ten years. And a lot of it, tragically, has been driven by the realities of combat. Energy, the Defense Department being a huge user of it, is what you live and fight and operate on. But it was clear early on, in the beginning of the war in Iraq, that energy was also costing us lives, because for every fuel convoy, at least one young American risked giving his life.
— Admiral Gary Roughead (Ret.), Hoover Institution Annenberg distinguished visiting fellow and former chief of naval operations*
 
DOE_DOD_12778602363_33b8fb582e_o.jpg

Defense - Near at Hand


A resource-efficient Marine is a more combat-effective Marine.

— Colonel Robert Charette, USMC (Ret.), former USMC Expeditionary Energy Office director*†

Defense - Near at Hand


A resource-efficient Marine is a more combat-effective Marine.

— Colonel Robert Charette, USMC (Ret.), former USMC Expeditionary Energy Office director*†

Army

Consolidated Utility Base Energy system

Consolidated Utility Base Energy (CUBE) is an integrated power electronic platform for a 60-kilowatt PV-battery-diesel hybrid power system developed to provide power to forward operating bases. The modular CUBE prototype is intended to integrate four 15-kilowatt PV arrays, one 30-kilwatt battery bank, and two 30-kilowatt diesel generator sets to power a 60-kilowatt load. Onboard power electronics include PV Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) converters, battery charge/discharge con- verters, and a three-phase inverter capable of smoothly transitioning between operation as a stand-alone voltage source and operation in parallel with the diesel generators or a utility grid connection. 

Polymer conformal battery and SWIPES

The Army’s Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center is working to develop a 0.8-inch thick battery that can be placed directly into a soldier’s vest with minimal added bulk. Similar to the Squad Power Manager, described above, such a battery could be integrated into the Soldier Wearable Integrated Power System (SWIPES), whereby a single battery powers a variety of worn devices through a network of internal cable routing and pockets. The goal of these systems is to help extend mission length while passively ensuring that each needed device remains charged and available for use. SWIPES has been named as one of the US Army’s top ten innovations; field testing has begun on several hundred units through the Army Rapid Equipping Force and Project Manager Soldier Warrior.

Related: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Defense energy research programs →

Marine Corps

Concentrated solar harvesting technology

These concentrating solar harvesting systems produce power and hot water at geographically remote forward-operating bases, with the aim of reducing the area required to deploy solar systems with capacities of 5 kilowatts and below. In addition to more conventional solar water heating, the program also includes lens-focused PVs and solar thermal dishes. Water heating today generally relies on electricity produced from potentially wet-stacked diesel generators, likely operating below their efficient load levels, so incorporating solar power here can reduce the need for fuel delivery and maintenance. 

Tactical vehicle fuel efficiency

Over the past decade, while a typical Marine battalion’s lethality has gone up, so has its energy use: 250 percent more radios, 300 percent increase in IT, 200 percent more vehicles, 75 percent increase in vehicle weight, and 25 percent decline in vehicle fuel efficiency. The addition of significant weight from armor and other warfighter requirements and continually increasing onboard power requirements for new electronic systems such as improvised explosive device (IED) jammers, radios, vision devices, and communication equipment results in greater fuel demand at FOBs. This represents a major cost, logistics, and safety issue that the Marine Corps aims to reduce.

For example, idling the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) can maintain 2.4 kilowatts of power to off-board equipment, but consumes an average of 0.8 gallon of fuel per hour. This is in comparison with a typical 10-kilowatt tactical generator, which consumes less than one gallon per hour. To help address this, numerous efforts now focus on exporting vehicle power at idle or static conditions. 

Hear Colonel Robert Charette describe USMC energy use on the battlefield at a 2013 Stanford Energy and Environment Affiliates Program conference

Related: the US Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office →

Related: the US Army Rapid Equipping Force's energy challenges →

DOE_DOD_9789184176_914ae289e6_o.jpg

Defense - On the Horizon


What is the future for expeditionary warfare technologies? The solar backpacks, for example. Even if we pull out of Afghanistan shortly, we’re going to continue developing our technology. But how do we proceed with these technologies when they’re not being shipped over to theater within six months? They’re going to be important for the future of the Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. We don’t want to slow our progress. We have to anticipate our warfighters’ needs and be ready, not be scrambling after the fact.

— Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, Former US Navy assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment*† 

Defense - On the Horizon


What is the future for expeditionary warfare technologies? The solar backpacks, for example. Even if we pull out of Afghanistan shortly, we’re going to continue developing our technology. But how do we proceed with these technologies when they’re not being shipped over to theater within six months? They’re going to be important for the future of the Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. We don’t want to slow our progress. We have to anticipate our warfighters’ needs and be ready, not be scrambling after the fact.

— Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, Former US Navy assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment*† 

Navy

High-energy pulse power requirements

High-energy pulse power requirements are driving research and development of new high-power electronics, leading-edge generation, and power-distribution technologies.

The High-Energy Laser (HEL) program aims to offer naval platforms enhanced, economical defense capability against air and surface threats—including swarms of small boats—and future anti-ship cruise missiles. This solid-state laser system, which the Congressional Research Service has described as a technological “game changer” in Navy tactics, ship design, and procurement, has been successfully tested on small drone targets through the marine layer at sea. It is currently being test-deployed at a forward-operating location in the Persian Gulf. Miniaturizing requisite power delivery systems remains a major R&D focus.

Meanwhile, the Counter-Directed Energy Weapons (CDEW) Program is exploring how to adapt to and defend against a similar set of hostile, directed energy marine weapons, including lasers and microwaves. This cross-disciplinary research program spans the domains of material science, optics, and high-energy physics. The Office of Naval Research, together with the Naval Postgraduate School, the US Naval Academy, the Naval Research Laboratory, and naval air, space, and surface warfare centers are similarly investigating basic research topics related to countering the threats that come from directed energy weapons systems.

In parallel, the Office of Naval Research is continuing to develop nascent electromagnetic rail gun technology that could someday replace many shipboard chemical propellant-fired projectiles. This disruptive, high-energy weapon uses an electromagnetic field to accelerate an otherwise inert metal projectile to over 5,000 miles per hour, turning it into a kinetic energy warhead. Navy rail gun research efforts are now entering their second phase, which focuses on improving repeated fire capability and supporting electronics for high-impulse power delivery. A 32-megajoule proof-of-concept device has been successfully demonstrated—an energy level that would be capable of delivering a 100-nautical mile projectile range. 

Seawater-to-fuel systems

The Naval Research Laboratory, the corporate R&D facility for the Navy and Marine Corps, is developing technology that could one day produce synthetic jet or bunker fuel while at sea from the surrounding water. Rather than using conventional electrolysis, the process recovers CO2 and produces hydrogen from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell (the CO2 being largely bound in bicarbonates in seawater). The gases are then reduced and hydrogenated into an olefin through an iron-based catalyst and further refined into usable synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. The process has achieved CO2 conversion levels of up to 60 percent and is undergoing testing in the Gulf of Mexico. Though energy input for the process is still quite high, the ultimate goal is to be able to improve at-sea fueling operations, diversify the operational supply chain, and enhance self-sufficiency while at sea. 

 

Air Force

Directed energy systems

The US Air Force Research Lab is also developing novel directed energy systems. Key research areas include laser systems, high-power electromagnetics, weapons modeling and simulation, and so-called “directed energy and electro-optics for space superiority.” This research program draws upon experience gained through the previous development and testing of megawatt-class airborne lasers and the operation of ground-based large-diameter telescopes equipped with adaptive optics for space imaging. Related work includes the development of counter-electronics technologies that can precisely degrade, damage, or destroy hostile electronic systems. 

Related: The US Naval Research Laboratory →

Related: The US Air Force Research Laboratory →

 

 
The idea behind Game Changers is that there are energy technologies that are well within reach.
— Susan Hockfield, MIT president emerita