You've spent days trekking through unfamiliar territory on a reconnaissance mission, carrying the latest military-grade technology every step of the way. Your scouting platoon comes to a halt and you take the opportunity to pull out your laptop and send updated coordinates back to the base. Just one problem; the battery's dead. No need to panic -- you're carrying a Jenny fuel cell, one of several fuel cells specifically designed by Munich-based SFC Smart Fuel Cell for military use. Using the quiet, portable power that the Jenny fuel cell provides, you're able to recharge your laptop's battery and get to work.
Fuel cells are similar to batteries in a lot of ways, using chemical reactions to produce electrical energy. Unlike batteries, however, fuel cells don't go dead; as long as a fuel source is available, a fuel cell can continue to produce energy.
The idea to use fuel cells for military applications is hardly a new one. Articles exploring the subject go back to the 1950s, but both military and fuel cell technology have advanced significantly since then. Modern soldiers use an amazing array of electrical equipment to do their jobs. Night vision goggles, global positioning systems and computers are just some of the power-hungry devices soldiers carry with them in the field, and finding reliable, portable power for those devices has become an important issue. Batteries for those gadgets can add 20 pounds (9 kilograms) or more to a soldier's load [source: MSNBC]. Fortunately, fuel cell technology has come a long way as well, and SFC is one of the companies pushing the technology forward.
SFC says that its fuel cells, named Smart Fuel Cells, offer several advantages over older fuel cell and battery technology. For one thing, they're up to 80 percent lighter, according to the company. Another advantage is that soldiers can carry replacement fuel cartridges to keep the cell going. Smart Fuel Cells, like most fuel cells, also operate very quietly, an important feature for covert military operations. Unlike many other fuel cells, Smart Fuel Cells operate at a fairly low temperature, making them suitable for carrying in both standard issue military vests and military vehicles alike. Read on to learn how Smart Fuel Cells manage to do all of those things when other fuel cells can't.