WASHINGTON - The Department of Defense wants better batteries for its war fighters, and it’s partnering with NanoGraf to develop them.

“Just like we civilians are increasingly relying on cell phones and tablets and everything else, the modern soldier is also transitioning towards these really power heavy devices in the field, [like] night vision goggles, weapon optics, all of the communications devices, GPS,” said Chip Breitenkamp, NanoGraf vice president of business development. “All of those things require more and more power.

“If you take a look at what the soldier has to bring on the field already, between guns, ammunition, water, food, right now the best estimate that I’ve seen [...] is that every soldier for ever mission goes out with somewhere between 15 and 25 pounds of batteries just to power all of this stuff,” he continued.

NanoGraf wants to build energy dense batteries that reduce that weight while allowing war fighters to operate longer without replacing or recharging their batteries. The company recently announced that DoD had awarded the company a $1.65 million Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop silicon anode-based lithion-ion portable batteries to replace the graphite anode lithium-ion batteries currently used by the military. The goal is to develop batteries with a 50-100 percent increase in runtime.

“The technology that we have can be applied to any lithium-ion battery, and what it does is it basically gives the soldier more energy, longer runtime, less weight,” said Breitenkamp. He added that better batteries could enable emerging technologies like small drones and augmented reality devices.

He noted that the company can currently get about 30 percent more energy density out of their batteries, and their technology is about 12 months away from being available commercially. Under their contract, NanoGraf will be working directly with the U.S. Army over the next two years to improve their technology and prepare to begin manufacturing batteries for use by soldiers.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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