Monday, May 16, 2005

Solar Soldiers 

Someone at the Pentagon has been paying attention to James Howard Kunstler. What a pity civilians can't take the hint:
Today's soldiers are more power hungry than ever, and the army believes flexible solar cells can provide the extra juice. The military is testing lightweight materials that harness the sun's rays and feed electronic devices wherever mobile warriors travel.

Keeping the power on for soldiers -- who rely on night vision goggles, laptops, communications devices, and GPS units -- requires 150 tons of batteries per year, according to Lynn Samuelson, a research chemist at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, in Natick, Massachusetts.

Batteries are frequently airlifted to remote troops and distributed to soldiers, who carry two dozen spares and must also make sure they are not discarded so that their movements can be tracked. The Army is transitioning to rechargeable batteries that can gain new life from solar-powered chargers, according to Samuelson.

"Using photovoltaics can offer tremendous advantages in logistics," Samuelson says.

The Army is now field testing portable battery chargers, tents, and sensor systems containing flexible solar cell materials that can be rolled up or folded for easy storage. The new materials "allow someone to go farther, stay longer, and be more self sufficient," says Samuelson . . . .

In the future, soldiers may be getting a charge out of their uniforms, too. Konarka's McGahn says the solar material can be colored to match fatigues and woven into fabric.
The Green Warriors of tomorrow: fighting to liberate oil whether they need it or not.

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