Blessed with massive budgets, the military is often an ‘early adopter’ when it comes to technology. Recent reports suggest that US is putting up massive funding for three ground-breaking projects – all of them centred on solar power.
Portable power packs
During a battle, the ability to redeploy troops swiftly and without detection can mean the difference between victory and defeat. A recent leaked report has claimed that the US Army is developing tents and uniforms made from flexible solar panels to make it more difficult to track soldiers.
Jean Hampel, project engineer in the Fabric Structures Group at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center, said the need to minimise the Army’s logistics footprint sparked interest in developing lightweight solar panels. “We want to cut back on the things that soldiers have to bring with them,” including generators and personal battery packs, Hampel said. In modern warfare, portable power for communications technology is every bit as crucial as firepower and manpower.
The Army is testing flexible solar panels developed by Iowa Thin Film Technologies that can be layered on top of a tent, or folded into a backpack to provide a portable power source. Tents using solar panels made from amorphous silicon thin film on plastic can deliver up to 1 kilowatt of energy, which is enough to power fans, lights, radios or laptops, according to Hampel.