Power Conservation in Space Marine Armour
24th Jan, 2010

The Imperium makes heavy use of thermoelectric devices and materials, an advanced form of technology based on the Seebeck effect we know now, to convert heat into electricity. The STC power-packs found lining the interior of the multi-fuel engine fireboxes, and powers the ubiquitous Imperial Guard's Lazgun, are thermoelectric devices. These power-pack are made up of a stack of layer core, much like a heat-sink, coated in a highly efficient thermoelectric material. When heated these layers convert the heat into electricity and store it in a battery.

These materials can also be incorporated into flexible materials and fashioned into a EES (extreme enviroment suits). Many environments where humans have to work in 40K are hostile, with extremes of temperature that would freeze a man solid or set their flesh ablaze in an instant, and to protect the wearer from these extremes the outer layer of the EES is often a super-insulator. While this is great for isolating the wearer from the enviroment, it also means that within the suit there is a build up of heat generated by the body. This is were the thermoelectric layer is vital as takes the build up of body heat converts it into electricity. This cools the body and keeps the internal temperature of the suit constant (as the parameters of the design only has to deal with body heat, and sub-system heat, it is easy to optimise the system), and the generated electricity is then used to power life-support subsystems via a rechargeable battery. Subsystems include the comms, air scrubber pumps, and water auto-sense gear.

Space Marines: These thermoelectric materials and devices are used in construction of the highly advanced Space Marine Power Armour. The armour incorporates a thermoelectric layer under the super-insulator ceramite armour plates. This not only cools the hyper-metabolism body of the marine, reclaiming spent power and feeding it back into the enviroment sub-system, it drastically reduces their IR (infra-red) signature make them virtually invisible to heat sensing equipment. Space Marines always appear at 'ambient temperature' when viewed through any heat sensor, auto-sense, or thermo-goggles.

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8 Responses

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  1. Kage2020 says:

    Not a bad concept there, Phil. Very Dune in its own way. Of course, there would likely be pratical considerations of TEG's and their contribution to high energy systems, of which power armour is almost certainly going to be unless you apply "handwavium" in abundance (your "phased materials" to reduce the weight and therefore output requirements, "contra-grav" to do the same, reference to "advanced technology" or whatever).

    I'm also hitting a slight disbelieve on the idea that the Marine would be invisible to thermographic sensors, since would likely be some associated with the operation of the powered armour itself. Perhaps harder to spot than it might otherwise be.

    Perhaps more interesting is less the technological implications and more the idea that the Marine is not this uber-cool (not in the heat sense) good at everything type creation. Anything that moderates that gets my vote. 😀

    Something to think about anyway.


    • Philip S says:

      A fair bit of hand-waving would be needed to make these TEGs* as efficient as what I am proposing. I imagine that as science does not have a convenient answer for me; I would have to drop in a few 'phased materials' to get me off the hook.

      As to the invisibility of the marines in thermal sensors, I am not suggesting they are 'invisible' (as in the invisible man sense) merely they register as 'ambient temperature'. With good gear a person could see the outline of the marine, and make out their shape if one knew where to look, but the marine does not show up in the same way as an unshielded human would. However if the marine is out in the open, standing up high on a dune, silhouetted against the sky: they would be very easy to see in thermal detecting gear.

      In the field I image it's more a case of the enemies overlooking the marines, no noticing them, as those who are on the lookout with thermal detecting gear would be expecting to see bight heat signatures. Combined with the marines tactical know-how, stealth training, and awareness of limitations of their gear, I figure they would be hard to spot when stalking.

      Combined with their optical-camouflage, they would have a pretty good stealth ability.

      * (thermoelectric generators - for others reading this)

      • Kage2020 says:

        It was the ambient temperature thing that I was disbelieving, Phil, at least as a product of "thermographic camouflage" resulting from a TEG/heat exchange layer. My first-blush response would that something separate would be needed for the armour itself.

        Of course, I also don't work on the principle of magic materials ala Phase materials, so for Philverse it's probably an easy solution. 😀


        • Philip S says:

          Not working for you eh?

          Kage2020 wrote;My first-blush response would that something separate would be needed for the armour itself.

          What would you suggest?

          • Kage2020 says:

            I'm not dealing in real-world physics when it comes to conceptualisation of power armour, Phil. 😀

            Seriously, though, I'm just suggesting that an internal layer is not going to solve the problem that the armour itself is going to be generating heat either through the power plant, black body radiation, etc. Thus it would probably have its own thermographic camouflage integrated into it.


            • Philip S says:

              I was thinking that the thermoelectric layer is the main part of "thermographic camouflage", coupled with the super insulator ceramite armour plates on the outer surface. How else would thermographic camouflage work?

              • Kage2020 says:

                It might be a bit of a pinch to have the TE layer working through n-millimeters of armour, though. As to how such things work, it doesn't overtly concern me. I would be reticent about ascribing it to the "superior insulator ceramite," since much of that comes down to people viewing properties into ceramic. If that is the case, then you might want to look into the radiant properties of the material...


                • Philip S says:

                  It wouldn't really be 'working through n-millimeters of armour' as the TE layer would be on the inside, an inner layer, right next to the NRB soft suit layer, and in contact with cooling networks meshing with the Black Carapace.

                  The outer armour layer is cermite. Many modern day advanced ceramics are tough and have excellent insulating properties. I think we could have cermite as being similar in concept to one of these, and as such a material; any heat bleed through from the TE layer would be contained within the cermet shell. No heat escaping into the enviroment, and hence no heat signature (or a very limited one).

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