from the don't-drink-seawater dept.
The long range of airborne drones helps them perform critical tasks in the skies. Now MIT spinout Open Water Power (OWP) aims to greatly improve the range of unpiloted underwater vehicles (UUVs), helping them better perform in a range of applications under the sea.
Recently acquired by major tech firm L3 Technologies, OWP has developed a novel aluminum-water power system that's safer and more durable, and that gives UUVs a tenfold increase in range over traditional lithium-ion batteries used for the same applications.
The power systems could find a wide range of uses, including helping UUVs dive deeper, for longer periods of time, into the ocean's abyss to explore ship wreckages, map the ocean floor, and conduct research. They could also be used for long-range oil prospecting out at sea and various military applications. [...] It consists of a alloyed aluminum, a cathode alloyed with a combination of elements (primarily nickel), and an alkaline electrolyte that's positioned between the electrodes.
When a UUV equipped with the power system is placed in the ocean, sea water is pulled into the battery, and is split at the cathode into hydroxide anions and hydrogen gas. The hydroxide anions interact with the aluminum anode, creating aluminum hydroxide and releasing electrons. Those electrons travel back toward the cathode, donating energy to a circuit along the way to begin the cycle anew. Both the aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen gas are jettisoned as harmless waste.