A new Lockheed Martin patent published last week by the World Intellectual Property Organization gives us a glimpse of the miltary contractor’s relationship with Cedar Park, Tex.-based EEStor. It could also explain why EEStor has been reluctant so far to reveal its progress.
Lockheed’s patent details plans for “body armor having an electrical energy storage unit formed as a layer that substantially conforms to an armor plate.” According to the document, the electrical energy storage layer has “a plurality of sections.” The idea being that if one section is damaged in combat the other sections would remain operable. Two or more sections can be electrically coupled, either in parallel or series. Electrical connectors would “provide access to electrical power stored in the electrical energy storage layer.”
The armor would be a form-fitting utility garment worn like a vest. The patent goes on to say the electrical energy storage would be composed of lithium ion polymer batteries, or alternatively “one or more solid state, capacitive, electrical energy storage devices, such as those provided by EEStor Inc. of Cedar Park, Texas… Such solid state electrical energy storage devices comprise calcined composition-modified barium titanate coated with aluminum oxide and calcium magnesium aluminosilicate glass.
It’s been well known that Lockheed was participating in the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Wearable Power Competition,” which was announced July 2007. And it’s been long suspected that EEStor’s EESU was part of Lockheed’s entry. Indeed, Lockheed’s team leader in the competition — David Hoelscher — is named as co-inventor on the company’s patent. The patent filing confirms the speculation.
The contest winners were announced Oct. 4 and Lockheed didn’t make it to the Top 3. The winners used lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells or some combination of the two. I’m not sure where Lockheed did end up ranking, but the fact it didn’t rank high could raise a few eyebrows about its relationship with EEStor and confidence in the EESU technology.
But back to the patent. There is also mention of the electrical energy storage layer providing additional protection from bullets and ballistic fragments. And an external fuel-cell would be used to recharge the storage layer in the body armor.
What do we make of all this? An optimist would read Lockheed’s patent and see it as a huge boost of confidence in EEStor. That’s because Lockheed goes out of its way to mention EEStor, whereas mention of lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries remain generic. An optimist would also read the title of the patent — “Garment Including Electrical Energy Storage Unit” — as another endorsement of EEStor, given that its product has always been called an EESU or Electrical Energy Storage Unit.
A pessimist would focus on Lockheed’s wording in the patent, which could be interpreted as calling the EEStor technology a secondary choice after the preferred choice of lithium-ion batteries. A pessimist might also ask: So what? What if EEStor is mentioned in a patent application? Does it really say anything about EEStor’s technology, whether it works, or whether it can be mass produced?
Me? I think Lockheed could have just as easily not mentioned EEStor in the patent, so I take this as a good sign. But let’s keep in mind the patent was filed on April 8, 2008. This is before DoD awarded its wearable power prize, and it’s nine months of time during which anything could have happened — positive or negative.
So let me just end by calling this yet another interesting development that tells us precious little, makes EEStor seem more real, and keeps us hopefully engaged.