You may or may not have heard of trioxane - it's a compressed fuel bar that's made to heat military rations and boil water for hot drinks. Trioxane is similar in use to the hexamine and esbit tabs used more often in Europe.
I ran across something interesting last night - it's a solicitation notice from May 2004 from Natick (US Army Research, Development and Engineering Acquistion Center) for something called the "Enhanced Fuel Bar (EFB) Type I and Type II". They're looking for 200 samples of each, with a possible production run of 600,000 Type I's and 200,000 Type II's.
Here's the description of the EFB's: The EFB is a gelled fuel developed as a non-hazardous replacement to the Trioxane tablets currently used by individual members of all Military Services to heat water and beverages in a field environment. The heating capacity of the fuel shall be such that combustion of -1.1 ounces of the fuel shall be sufficient to raise the temperature of 14 ounces of water contained in a standard canteen cup through a 100 degrees F rise in temperature.
Type I EFBs are described as single use pouches, containing 1.25 ounces of fuel, 5 in. x 3 in. x 0.33 in.
Type II EFBs are described as multi use, recloseable pouches containing 6 ounces of fuel, 6-1/8 in. x 6 in. x 1 in.
It looks like this isn't the first time they've taken a look at replacing trioxane. I found this market research request from July 1996 that indicates they were looking for companies that manufacture these things.
That notice had this to say: The current standard fuel bar, Trioxane, produces noxious and potentially hazardous fumes that restrict its overall usefulness. Trioxane consists primarily of the chemical metaformaldehyde, and formaldehyde has been recently identified by OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH as a suspected carcinogen. While the current fuel bar is relatively light in weight and burns without smoke, there are a variety of fuels based on ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, and diethylene glycol that provide the same function but are nonhazardous. These fuels also burn slower and more efficiently so that less fuel is required.
So I did some searching around the net and as best I can tell, "gelled fuel" is best described as good ol' Sterno. But apprently, this isn't just your regular canned sterno, it sounds like it's something that comes in a pack of some sort. Does the pack itself burn? Do you light the pack? Do you open it? I don't know. The only other thing I could find was a picture of some "Ethanol Fuel Gel" packs from this site. Here's a picture:
MRE and other ration news
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