Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Australian University Develops Uniform Compatible Solar Panels

Having mobile energy has been a major logistical issue for the military especially in immense countries such as Afghanistan, where patrols or other missions can leave troops far from the FOB to recharge or gain access to additional energy sources. 

Technology using kinetic or solar power has been of much interest, since it does not require a non-renewable fuel to create energy and can be created anywhere. A lightweight mobile energy source is a powerful tool especially in the age of smartphones and pads. 

Public universities are a great resource to put forth research into such innovations and correct this military problem. It turns out the Australian National University (ANU) has done just that. They have developed light-weight solar panels that can be worn on the outside of a military uniform. This has been created in conjunction with their Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems through a $2.3 million AUD Contract with the Department of Defence. 

This device gives a great alternative to bulky battery packs and other equipment needed to provide energy to mobile electronic devices that provide for a "smart" operating environment with easy communication and efficient tactical operations utilizing computer systems. The new energy conductor utilizes SLIVER Solar panels developed by the ANU that are pliable, lightweight, and comfortably worn on a standard uniform with a simple clip on system. 

Obviously a new system such as this can have its limitations. While it can absorb energy from both sides of the panel, only one side will be exposed when worn. From the looks of the photos it can definitely disrupt the effectiveness of the Camouflage utilized on the uniform. Blobbing out the AUSCAM or soon to be MultiCam in Afghanistan may be deal breaker for this new technology unless they find a better way to integrate it into the military clothing. It can be worn on top of the helmet, but this makes the noggin even more noticeable. 

They note that the panels are rugged, but it will be interesting to see how they stand up in real combat scenarios where they will definitely put to the test with dirt, sand, and hard core wear and tear. One big plus for these solar panels would be easy roll up and transport and they can be laid out to gather energy from the sun. However, an additional battery source may be needed to hold any gathered power, since this would not prove effective at night or in cloud cover. 

This technology certainly can bring a whole new meaning for the future combat uniform of the 21st Century. Troops will have the latest innovations in lightweight fabrics that are comfortable and easy to clean. Tactical gear that provides the most effective protection ever constructed. Camouflage designs that conceal better than ever before and on top of everything, an energy source they can utilize anywhere in the world that the sun shines down on their backs as they perform the most difficult of tasks. 

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