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US Marines Test Solar Powered Vest

Military technology often makes its way into the civilian sector, so watching new releases in the armed forces can provide a good indication as to where the market could be going in the future.

The bit of kit being tested by the US Marines, is a vest that uses solar energy to power their portable electronic gear.

Supplying energy to Marines out on patrol, or in remote locations is one of the biggest logistical nightmares involved in modern warfare. Marines that are able to create some of their own energy will be able to operate in the field for longer periods of time.

Related article: Ceramic Converter Tackles Solar Cell Problem

Cleantechnica explains that a 96-hour patrol requires a soldier to take around 60 pounds of equipment, from water supplies, batteries, radios, night goggles, GPS, and even laptops. The batteries alone can weigh as much as 20 pounds.

The MAPS Vest.
The MAPS Vest.

The Marine Austere Patrolling System (MAPS), the official name given to the vest, includes a water purifier, wearable solar panel, a flat-form battery, and an intelligent power management system.

The solar panel used was developed at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). It is an advanced multi-junction cell, roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper, which operates at about a 30 percent rate of efficiency.

30 percent is about 22 percent more efficient than the typical solar cells used by the military, but not the lab wants to boost this to 50 percent, even higher than the world record efficiency of 44 percent.

Related article: IKEA Tries to Simplify Solar

The vest power management system (VPM-402) enables the marine to connect multiple devices to the battery, by automatically reading the energy requirements of the device and adjusting the voltage supplied by the battery. It is also able to communicate between the personal batteries of connected devices in order to transfer energy where needed, effectively creating a microgrid.

The VPM-402.
The VPM-402.

If a radio’s battery is dead, but the GPS has a full charge, the VPM-402 can use the GPS to power the radio.

If the vests battery is running low then the management system allows it to charge by being plugged into almost any power source from 4 to 34 volts, including civilian devices or military vehicle.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com


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  • Phil Mahoney on November 05 2013 said:
    Good idea but the comment on weight suggests to me that such devices could be carried by a multi tasking large dog leaving the marine better situated for combat.

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