Self Heating Rations

There has always been a need to heat certain foods to palate temperature to improve the taste, which in turn enhances the morale of the soldier in the field. Currently, the heating is done by burning a fuel tab under a canteen cup filled with water into which the soldier places a pouch-packed entrée item, such as beef in barbecue sauce. Heating food this way is relatively inefficient, limits the soldier to a fixed location, and, because of the open flame, sends out a visible signal. Newer developments aim for chemical methods of flamelessly heating the food within its packaging and while the soldier is on-the-move.

Chemical Heating Pad. A new product has been developed, through joint military—civilian cooperation, that uses a water-activated chemical system for efficiently generating and transferring heat (31). It contains a supercor-rosive magnesium-iron alloy powder blended with sodium chloride and imbedded in a porous polymeric matrix. It is produced as a thin, rectangularly shaped pad enclosed in a perforated paperboard package and weighs 20 g. The exothermic reactions that take place with 2 oz of added water include the oxidation of magnesium, reduction of oxygen, and formation of gaseous hydrogen. Approximately 33 kcal of energy are released. The high ratio of energy released to the weight of the pad and the action of the streaming gas and steam in heating the packaged ration component make this product attractive.

Flameless Ration Heater (FRH). The initial application for this chemical heating pad will be as a flameless heater for MRE entrées. Whether packed with the MRE or issued separately, the FRH includes a heater pad in a polyethylene bag that is sized to accept the MRE pouch and is marked with a line to indicate a level of added water equivalent to 2 oz. It is capable of raising the temperature of an 8 oz entrée from 40 to 140°F. In practice, the entree is placed in the bag, the water added, the top of the bag folded over to avoid spillage, and the whole system placed back in the small carton originally used to protect the pouch. The carton is then set aside or carried (perhaps in the pocket of the soldier's uniform) for about 10 min while the heating takes place. If left in the carton, the entrée will stay warm for an hour.

Self-Heating Individual Meal Module. Another application of this chemical heating pad will be for use in an individual meal module designed as a laptop serving tray package containing all ration components, including utensils. The heater pad would be located in recessed sections of the tray just under the components to be heated. Water could be included in a puncturable reservoir or added when needed. In either case, channels would be included in the package to direct the water to the pads and to focus the hot gases around the compartments with the heatable components. Entrées, starchy items such as noodles, and vegetables such as carrots would be heated to the desired temperatures by judicious choice of the pad size and weight. This same general concept could be used to cool dessert items by choosing reagents whose reactions with water are endothermic.

Future Heating Concepts. Because this chemical heater concept is not practical for boiling water, other flameless heating concepts are being considered for supplementary use. A small device in which organic fuel could be catalyt-ically combined with oxygen, without the propogation of a flame, would be especially attractive. Simple ways to initiate the catalytic combustion and to transfer the heat to a canteen would have to be included. Prospects for meeting these requirements are good.

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