US Army makes use of a number of gadgets which its soldiers have to carry around. Let’s take a 3 day exercise for example; the soldier would usually pack up the necessary stuff which includes food, water and ammunition, Right? Wrong. They have to pack up to 13 pounds of batteries as well. Most of their devices are powered electronically and this is where the problem arises. Carrying this much of battery weight is very inconvenient for the soldiers. Therefore, Army has decided for its soldiers to wear knee braces and energy generating gadgets. The knee braces are technically bionic and will generate power from kinetic energy whereas the wearable tech is mainly solar panels that will harness the energy of sun.
Chris Hurley, battery development team leader at the U.S. Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, said; “If we can cut down on the need for batteries, we are saving fuel costs with the convoys that have to deliver these items to the field. We’re also saving lives in that since there is a huge risk in bringing these convoys out to the fore field.’
One of the viable solutions is making use of kinetic energy. The key idea here is to make use of the soldier’s body movement to harness kinetic energy from his joints. Bionic Power is the company behind this initiative and is currently working with the military. While the knee brace has no medical worth, it is still able to provide the user with zero impedance when it comes to mobility. The knee braces are connected to a power manager which is capable of charging a 2.2 lb battery. The combined production of two knee braces is 10-12 watts per hour. This is enough to charge three smartphones and will allow the soldiers to decrease the number of batteries that they have to carry. The CEO if Bionic Power, Garcha said; ‘Instead of four or five [2.2 pound] batteries, they might carry two that are rechargeable.’
The other viable option is to make use of flexible solar panels that can basically be woven into the soldier’s uniform and will generate power by harnessing the power of sun and this energy will be used to power up devices. Barry Ives, director of advanced programs at wearable electronics company MC10 said that the company is working with military to come up with a design of uniform which will be capable of creating 18 watts per hour. He also said that this number will fluctuate since the soldiers are not always moving in the sun but these panels will still be able to provide with more than enough power. What needs to be taken care of is that these suits do not kill the camouflage of soldiers.
Work is being done to come up with an app that will be able to tell the soldier that how much of power is left in his devices.
Chris Hurley said; ‘With that, the soldier now has the situational awareness that will allow him to make decisions to further his power sources. He can now throttle down or even shut off some of the devices to prolong his battery life.’