British soldiers, like most other modern day warriors, carry around a lot of gear, including chemical battery packs used to power electronics. All of this gear, of course, adds weight, making it harder for soldiers to stay on the go for long. What if the energy component could be fulfilled though via solar technology, lightening this part of the load by at least half? That’s the focus of a project being undertaken by by the University of Glasgow with Loughborough, Strathclyde, Leeds, Reading and Brunel Universities, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and additional support from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
The two-year Solar Soldier project, as it is being called, looks to create a solar and thermoelectric-powered system tied to leading-edge energy storage technology that could provide “a reliable power supply round-the-clock, just like a normal battery pack.” Also being looked at are ways of managing, storing and utilizing heat produced by the system.
Though research on such use of solar technologies on the battlefront has been done before, British researchers say what they are doing is different because of its use of thermoelectric devices to complement solar cells, “delivering genuine 24/7 power generation capability.” The system, in theory, would use solar cells during the day produce electricity to power equipment. During the night, the thermoelectric devices will take over and perform the same function. The system, said the researchers, will also incorporate advanced energy storage devices to ensure electricity is always available on a continuous basis.
Also being considered by this project is how both types of device could actually be woven into soldiers’ battle dress, which reportedly has never been done before. The objectives here are to put the clean energy films on rigid underlying layers separately and then together, followed by repeating the process using flexible layers. The resulting flexible hybrid power generation devices reportedly would be unique and could even be colored to camouflage them.
Advantages to this Solar Soldier platform, besides the mobility, are said to be an increase in the potential range and duration of infantry operations, as well as absorbing energy across the electromagnetic spectrum so as to make infantry less liable to detection by night vision equipment that uses infra-red technology, for instance.