Army

Batteries as structural elements

Weight and space savings from dual-purpose components

Energy Electronics

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Illustration by KTH Royal Institute of Technology

In most power applications, a battery is used in combination with structural or support elements. For example, cellular phones enclose a battery and other electronics in a polymer case. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) typically include batteries that are mounted in a polymer composite airframe and common circuit boards routinely support batteries. Efforts to lessen weight and create more space for other components in these battery-powered devices have typically focused on increasing the power and energy density of batteries.

Army researchers have departed from the conventional approaches to optimizing battery-powered electronic systems and devices. While they continue to produce batteries with improved power levels and energy densities, they are also pursuing energy cells which function as structural elements in a device. Toward that goal, they have invented battery systems that are sufficiently rigid and strong to function as panels, columns, beams, pylons, and other structural elements of the objects in which they are incorporated. These power cells replace non-power-generating structural elements with power-generating structures, substantially lowering their weight- and size-burden on systems.

For example, portions of the airframe of a UAS may be fabricated from structural batteries, which reduces its weight and increases the amount of electrical power carried. Similar power, weight, and size benefits can be achieved with other devices such as smartphones, computers, and specialized electronic devices.

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