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US ONR demonstrates aluminium-based fuel prototype for possible USMC operations

The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) recently demonstrated ONR-sponsored technology developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory to convert aluminium into hydrogen fuel, which could potentially serve as a portable, readily available power source for the US Marine Corps (USMC), ONR confirmed on 15 February.

An ONR TechSolutions programme demonstration showcased a fuel-generation prototype – the hydrogen tactical refueling point (H-TaRP) at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, ONR officials said in a statement. Marines learned how to assemble the H-TaRP, and ONR demonstrated how the H-TaRP equipment works to produce hydrogen.

ONR officials said that H-TaRP includes an aluminium dispenser, reactor vessel, water cooling system, and a control system manifold to fill an H2 tank, offering marines a potentially lighter, agile system.

The technology relies on the reaction of aluminium mixed with water to generate hydrogen gas. According to ONR officials, any form of water works in the chemical reaction, including salty ocean water, river water, and even urine.

The leftover steam can also be distilled and used for drinking and hydration, officials noted.

Expeditionary marines must often rely on petroleum or battery-based energy options. Batteries weigh a lot and must be constantly recharged.

“H-TaRP's purpose is to eliminate the need for diesel fuel transport and battery charging by being able to use locally available resources to produce hydrogen fuel for all sorts of vehicles,” Erik Limpaecher, leader of the Energy Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, said in a statement.

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