Flexible solar energy harvesters integrated into U.S. soldier’s backpacks, helmets, and jackets could soon be powering electronic devices in the field.
The U.S. Army and a start-up company called MC10 has signed a contract to convert its solar cell technology into functional battery chargers for military use. The goal of the project is to show a 25-50% increase in battery life of soldier’s power packs, freeing them from carrying heavy loads.
The company specializes in re-engineering stiff, brittle electronics into sleek, soft, stretchy versions. MC10 has already built flexible electronics that embed in the skin, much like a tattoo, in order to monitor data from the brain, muscles, and heart and monitor stress and fatigue.
"As you look out 25 years, I'm not sure we know or will even recognize the things that will come out," Lovell said. "But I think a lot of the new science -- the quantum computing, lower power devices and advanced sensors --they are going to continue to change the game.”
“Although it may take some time for these innovative ideas to reach our men and women on the front line, this is a great step forward in making our service men and women more efficient," added Thomas Hsiao, president SuperGreen Solutions of the Charlotte Mid-Atlantic Region. "Here in Charlotte, we have seen tremendous technical innovations spurred on by competitions, such as the Power Up Challenge at Chamber of Commerce. We hope to see more innovative energy efficiency ideas coming out of our own backyard.”
Whether new technology is embedded in the skin or in clothing, it is now clear that this technology will be developed and will be used. You many even see similar products to this solar cell technology available to the rest of us on the horizon.