USA — Improved batteries, SWIPES to lighten Soldiers’ load

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — A Sol­dier treks through treach­er­ous ter­rain in a dan­ger­ous com­bat zone with a ruck­sack filled with meals ready-to-eat, first-aid gear, weapons, ammu­ni­tion, radios and bat­ter­ies.

Christo­pher Hur­ley, an elec­tron­ics engi­neer with the U.S. Army Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Com­mand, holds a Poly­mer Con­for­mal Bat­tery.
Click to enlarge
Christo­pher Hur­ley holds a Half-Size BA-5590 Bat­tery, left, com­pared with the stan­dard ver­sion.
Click to enlarge

The U.S. Army Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Com­mand is light­en­ing the Soldier’s load by devel­op­ing small­er and lighter bat­ter­ies. Sci­en­tists and engi­neers are unbur­den­ing the Sol­dier, increas­ing maneu­ver­abil­i­ty, reduc­ing fatigue, and cut­ting time need­ed for bat­tery re-charg­ing.

Christo­pher Hur­ley, an elec­tron­ics engi­neer with RDECOM’s Communications–Electronics Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter for six years, leads the bat­tery devel­op­ment projects team.

“One of the major projects on the bat­tery team is try­ing to reduce the logis­tics bur­den,” Hur­ley said. “We inves­ti­gate state-of-the-art bat­tery chemistries that will help us to decrease the Sol­dier load.”


Hur­ley and his col­leagues have reduced the size and weight of the stan­dard BA-5590 bat­tery by half, but the per­for­mance and run time has remained the same. The Half-Size BA-5590 plugs into the same equip­ment, about 80 types of radios and robots, as the full-size ver­sion.

“The Sol­dier can still per­form the same [mis­sion] with half the weight and vol­ume in bat­ter­ies,” Hur­ley said. “It will light­en their load and increase their maneu­ver­abil­i­ty so they have more free­dom to get around on the bat­tle­field.”

The research team accom­plished the size and weight sav­ings through improve­ments in the battery’s mate­ri­als, he said. One of the bat­tery chemistries under devel­op­ment is lithi­um-car­bon monoflouride.

“A lot of the research is done on the mate­ri­als. Once we iden­ti­fied a chem­istry that has poten­tial to light­en the Sol­dier load, a lot goes into it in terms of the raw mate­ri­als — the cath­ode, anode, and ener­gy-stor­age com­po­nents that afford us a high-ener­gy den­si­ty bat­tery,” Hur­ley said.

The Army has been work­ing on the bat­tery for five years, and it should be field­ed to Sol­diers in about a year, Hur­ley said.


As the Army trans­forms to meet chang­ing bat­tle­field threats, Sol­diers need to be agile with­out car­ry­ing boxed-sized bat­ter­ies around their bod­ies. CERDEC is part­ner­ing with RDECOM’s Nat­ick Sol­dier Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter to devel­op a 0.8 inch-thick bat­tery that can be placed into a Soldier’s vest.

“We’re putting those same bat­tery chemistries into a wear­able bat­tery con­fig­u­ra­tion known as the Poly­mer Con­for­mal Bat­tery,” Hur­ley said. “The idea is to keep it close to the body so there are not a lot of pro­jec­tions from the body. When the Sol­dier is in a prone posi­tion or tight spaces, you don’t have huge bat­ter­ies stick­ing out.

“The next step is to get it into an inte­grat­ed, wear­able vest sys­tem so that Sol­diers can wear this bat­tery to have it run to all of their equip­ment.”


The Sol­dier Wear­able Inte­grat­ed Pow­er Sys­tem, known as SWIPES, sup­plies a main bat­tery from a cen­tral loca­tion to pow­er all end-items.

SWIPES places pouch-mount­ed charg­ers and pow­er cables for bat­ter­ies, GPS units, shot-detec­tion sys­tems and hand­held com­mu­ni­ca­tions into the vest. It allows for extend­ed mis­sion times with­out the need to of swap bat­ter­ies or pow­er sources by keep­ing devices charged at all times.

SWIPES won one of the top 10 U.S. Army Great­est Inven­tions in 2010.

“All of the cabling is rout­ed through the dif­fer­ent pock­ets for radios and equip­ment. The idea is to have this bat­tery pow­er all of the equip­ment,” Hur­ley said.

The Army Rapid Equip­ping Force and Project Man­ag­er Sol­dier War­rior have start­ed field test­ing sev­er­al hun­dred SWIPES units.

“The major ben­e­fit is the weight sav­ings. For a typ­i­cal 72-hour mis­sion, a Sol­dier will save up to 12 pounds of bat­ter­ies they don’t have to car­ry,” Hur­ley said.

U.S. Army