Source: MIT News
Open Water Power (OWP), a company spun off by MIT, has developed a novel aluminum-water power system that could enable unpiloted underwater vehicles (UUVs) to travel further than those powered by traditional lithium-ion batteries. OWP claim that the new batteries could give UUVs a tenfold increase in range, allowing them to dive deeper and map the ocean floor for longer.
The new power system comprises an alloyed aluminum cathode and an alkaline electrolyte positioned between the electrodes. Placed in the ocean, seawater is pulled into the battery, splitting at the cathode into hydroxide anions and hydrogen gas. The hydroxide anions interact with the aluminum anode, creating aluminum hydroxide and releasing electrons, which travel back toward the cathode, generating electricity. The aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen gas can be jettisoned as harmless waste.
OWP is working with the U.S. Navy to use the batteries in acoustic sensors that detect enemy submarines. The startup’s collaboration with Riptide Autonomous Solutions to power UUVs for underwater surveys aims to increase the range of the UUVs from around 100 nautical miles to 1,000 nautical miles. “Everything people want to do underwater should get a lot easier,” says co-inventor Ian Salmon McKay, who co-founded OWP with fellow mechanical engineering graduate Thomas Milnes. “We’re off to conquer the oceans.”
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