News | Feb 3, 2020

Flameless burner invented by US Army, improves portable heating and cooking

Businesses can pursue commercialization through a patent license agreement

Soldiers use a truck-mounted Assault Kitchen to prepare meals in the field for 250 troops.

Victor Ayala/U.S. Army

A new invention from the U.S Army — a flameless catalytic combustion device — could change the landscape of portable cooking and heating forever.

The double-layered metal device that uses the reaction between a layered catalyst and fuel compressed between two metal sheets to create a heated surface, represents an easier, more versatile and potentially safer way for soldiers and outdoor enthusiasts to cook and warm themselves.

The current cooking stove used in U.S. Army field kitchens is the Modern Burner Unit, which utilizes conventional combustion to heat griddles, ranges, and cooking racks. But the burner is loud and must be well ventilated.

Similarly, current portable heaters on the market, which typically use gas, come with inherent risks of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning (the Army published a comic strip called “Let ‘Er Vent” to educate troops on the Modern Burner Unit’s carbon monoxide exhaust).

Inventor Ivan Lee of the Army Research Lab came up with an ingenious, simple fix to these issues by creating his new device, which, by using a catalyst such as platinum or rhodium sandwiched between metal sheets, eliminates the flame burning that releases harmful gasses.

As the Army’s patent application, which was first made public on Jan. 23, states:

“When fuel interacts with the catalyst in the porous metal oxide layer it undergoes flameless catalytic combustion which generates heat. The heat generated at the first surface is conductively transferred through the metal piece to the second surface thus raising the temperature of the second surface. Such heating by the flameless catalytic combustion is harnessed to raise the temperature of the second surface to a temperature suitable for cooking food and/or boiling water.”

Moreover, as the reaction works with any suitable source of fuel that can support flameless catalytic combustion, it can be rigged up with anything from a bit of JP-8 jet fuel, to gasoline, kerosene or propane.

“Indeed, cookware having a porous oxide surface impregnated with a flameless catalytic combustion catalyst allows complete burning of fuel resulting in higher energy efficiency and less pollution flue gas,” the application states.

The simplicity of the technology itself allows it to be modified for various sizes or applications, making it perfect for not only military cooktops but commercial outdoor heaters or camping stoves.

Business Opportunity

The camping stove market will exceed $670 million by 2025, according to one estimate.

And qualified companies can now pursue commercialization of the Army’s new device through a patent license agreement.

Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink and the point of contact for businesses interested in reviewing the technology for licensing and commercialization, hailed the invention as a springboard into the commercial or military market.

“Mr. Lee’s flameless heater could not only change the way troops in the military cook their meals but could also power the next consumer hit in sporting goods stores,” Metzger said. “It’s the combination of safety, simplicity, and effectiveness that really makes this a hot technology.”


To learn more contact, Brian Metzger, at brian.metzger@montana.edu or 406-994-7782.