Thursday 17 April 2014

Aussie soldiers to go into combat with solar power

solar-powered-soldier

Solar energy could soon be helping Australian soldiers to power their numerous electronic devices on the battlefield.

Wearable lightweight solar panels developed by the Australian National University (ANU) convert light directly into electricity via SLIVER solar cell technology.

The ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems developed the SLIVER cells as part of a $2.3 million contract with the Department of Defence.

The project’s chief investigator Professor Andrew Blakers said the new sliver cells built by Transform Solar in Boise, Idaho were the basis for the wearable solar panels.

“We are able to use the sliver cells to make modules that can be bent around a radius of around a few centimetres,” Professor Blakers said.

“This means we can roll them up, put them in a package, carry them long distances and then unfurl them for use in remote areas.”

Professor Blakers said the wearable panels could be worn on a soldier’s helmet, on their front and/or back, their packs, their weapons and tents.

The solar panels were more rugged than conventional panels and they could operate in temperatures from minus 40 degrees to 65 degrees, he said.

Army strategist, Major General John Caligari, said using the sliver solar panels would reduce the weight soldiers carried in the field.

“We would carry dozens of different battery cells for our operations in Afghanistan right now,” Major General Caligari said.

“The average soldier would carry around half a kilogram of batteries to operate radios, night vision devices, torches, communications.

“If we were able to have a single source of power that meant we didn’t need to recharge our batteries then we would be able to run all those electrical systems and reduce our weight significantly.”

Professor Blakers said the sliver cells could also be used by civilians.

“I would see anyone who needs mobile power, that is military and also non-military applications.

“Obviously things like iPods, iPhones, remotes, sensors and the like can make use of this technology,” he said.

 

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