US marines have tested a vest that uses solar energy to power all the electronic gears on their vest. Military technology often permeates into civilian lives. Take the example of Swiss knives that have become very popular everywhere. Will the new technology that harvests solar energy also become as successful? Time will tell.
Reduce load on marines
Soldiers have to carry approximately 60 pounds of equipment when on patrol. They carry radios, GPS, night vision goggles, laptops and also water supplies when they are on patrol. The batteries to power these gadgets themselves weigh as much as 20 pounds. One of the goals of this technology is to enable marines to patrol for longer duration without any need of resupply.
Wearable solar panels
The system features an advanced solar panel that is wearable, and also includes a water purifier. These vests named ‘The Marine Austere Patrolling System (MAPS)’ have an intelligent power management system. The solar panel used in this system was developed at the Naval Research Laboratory. At present this advanced junction cell operates at about 30 percent efficiency, but the lab wants to increase it to 50 percent. The world record of efficiency of solar cells used by military is 44 percent.
Vest Power Management System (VPM-402)
This vest power manager (VPM-402) provides Marines an interface that can connect to multiple devices to the same flat ergonomically designed battery. It is the electrical heart of the system. It can communicate between batteries of the connected devices and automatically transfer energy wherever it is needed. If in some case the radio is dead whereas GPS is fully charged, the MAPS system will enable to power the radio from the GPS. VPM automatically adjusts the voltage requirements of every device connected to it.
Enhanced energy capabilities
These wearable solar panels enhance the energy capabilities of the Marines. These multi junction solar cells are very efficient as each junction is tuned to different wavelength bands in the solar spectrum. MAPS can accept power from civilian as well as military vehicles and also from any commonly used batteries or power source ranging from 4 to 34 volts.
Water filtration system
MAPS also features a system for filtration of water. This enables Marine to get safe drinking water from any water source, which they find in the field during patrolling.