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Providing solid protection: Dr. Lüder Hogrefe coordinates the German contributions to the Patriot Missile Defense System. This includes the Jenoptik power supply systems, which were met with a record order volume this past year – and which will continue to be developed by Thomas Zeller’s team.

Countries are obliged to protect their people. This of course includes air attacks. And when placed in the desert, people and materials are put to an even greater test. Thomas Zeller, program manager of the Defense & Civil Systems segment, remembers back to the First Gulf War in 1990, when the gas turbine engines used in U.S. missile defense failed due to the desert sand and the fuel supply. Zeller explained: “That is precisely why the U.S. military replaced it with our diesel generators.” Follow-up orders have continued ever since the major initial order placed by the U.S. military equipment company Raytheon – and common projects have firmed up the partnership as well.

Anti-aircraft systems require a high performance level for short periods of time

The Patriot system, which defends against air attacks, involves storing missiles on trucks. The missiles are then put in place aimed in the right direction when needed. The diesel generators provide power on demand at the precise moment required by the launchers.

Low levels of activity are detrimental to diesel generators

For the missiles to be launched without delay when needed, generators need to remain continually powered up in standby mode. This, however, leads to the formation of soot within the generator, which reduces its performance and increases maintenance needs. Diesel is also expensive in itself, when helicopters are required to deliver it to remote locations. As Thomas Zeller explained: “That is why we looked for possible energy storage solutions.” The tried and tested plate capacitor has been chosen for prototype development: Two plates, separated by a dielectric medium, store an electric charge in the circuit.

Chemists have shrunk the capacitors

New dielectric advances now allow for sizes that were once unthinkable. Jenoptik engineers have now designed these capacitors for future use in the Patriot system and adjusted the electric parameters accordingly. With the new hybrid system, diesel generators would no longer need to run idle. At full use, the generator charges the capacitors so that power can be stored until needed. Fuel consumption and exhaust output are halved in the process, while maintenance requirements fall precipitously.

An idea with great potential

As Dr. Lüder Hogrefe, who coordinates the German contribution to the Patriot Missile Defense System, reported: “The technology is very promising and Raytheon is evaluating the possibility of applying it to the entire program.” As the CEO of Raytheon Anschütz GmbH, Hogrefe accords Jenoptik with a level of “competence and initiative, with which it goes well beyond the role of a mere supplier”. The U.S. Army is now testing a third prototype in Fort Bliss, Texas.

A hybrid drive for all

As Thomas Zeller reported, interest has been received from places ranging from Scandinavia to the Arab World: “The concept can be applied anywhere that a short-term need for a high performance level arises. This can include military laser systems but also civil applications. We are only at the beginning of a highly promising technology.”