AI Helping Armies with Better Batteries

Armies are an integral part of any nation and energy is an integral part of any army. A lot of this energy is derived from batteries as they are portable and quite independent making them perfect for difficult isolated situations. However, right now batteries are comparatively quite inefficient and carrying multiple heavy batteries is not a practical solution for armies. Therefore the Army Research Office is prioritising this issue and attempting to find more fuel-efficient cells through the use of artificial intelligence.

So how exactly is AI employed? There are millions of possible combinations of elements to make the most efficient batteries and AI steps in here by pairing together different elements quickly and identifying the best combinations for humans to test.

It is about material discovery and finding the right material that has the necessary properties. Alloys are typically formed using two or three materials. The way they can be combined is so vast that trying out every possible combination is incredibly hard
— Purush Iyer, division chief of network sciences at ARO

One of the core priorities of the Army Research Office is to replace the use of Hydrogen in fuel cells with for example methane as it is easier to store and more efficient. However, the problem is that few substances can act as efficient catalysts in the oxidation of methane. Once again AI comes in by collating multiple software to find the technical and chemical boundaries to find a catalyst to oxidise methane. This is especially useful as methanol oxidation requires three elements so the number of permutations is much higher. Until now ARO has been able to identify one possible catalyst.

We are thinking within the next five to 10 years there might be movement. There is a dual purpose to this work. It not only establishes that this fuel cell work can be done, but it also establishes that AI is usable in areas that people don’t usually think of like material design and other engineering problems. What it illustrates is that it’s usable and could provide great savings if the problems are pared down and broken up into pieces that are appropriate for AI
— Purush Iyer, division chief of network sciences at ARO

The expansion of AI into the military sector has been established for some time but AI is only starting to branch out into these more niche areas of the military which could revolutionise the future of the military.