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Defense Department offers $1 million for wearable power supply

By Layer 8 on Fri, 07/06/07 - 3:33pm.

The Department of Defense  wants to pay you $1 million to come up with a lightweight  "wearable power" battery pack for soldiers. The DoD says typical soldier going out for a four-day mission carries as much as 40 pounds of batteries and rechargers in his pack and it wants to fix that.  The goal is to reduce the weight for the power system that drives radios, night-vision devices, global positioning systems and other combat gear, including a recharging system, to about 2 pounds per day The DoD is looking to mimic the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which has experienced successes using contests to attract competitors to develop innovative unmanned vehicles and other objects. Now the Defense Research and Engineering Office is hoping to tap into that same competitive spirit to develop longer-duration, lighter-weight power supplies.  Three prizes will be awarded in November 2008: $1 million, $500,000 and $250,000. Competitors have until Nov. 30 to register for the competition. Everyone -- private citizens, companies, international organizations -- is eligible although the lead member of all teams must be a U.S. citizen.  Entries are expected to run the gamut, the DoD said, from solar generators to devices that capture the power created when a soldier's boot hits the ground.  According to the DoD site, the following are key requirements of the system:  

·          The complete power system must weigh 4kg or less and provide a minimum of 1920Wats/hour.

·          The power system must operate continuously for 96 hours. 

·          During the 96 hours of operation the system must operate: (1) continuously (i.e., 24 hours a day); (2) at partial power; (3) for a number of periods of high power of up to 200W for 5 min; (4) in a non-air breathing mode in a sealed container for a time to be determined.

·          be attitude or vertical orientation and motion independent.

·          provide output voltages of 14V and 28V. 

·          The system must attach to a vest and operate while worn.  

·          The distance the system protrudes from the body when mounted to a vest is the only metric related to how “wearable” the system is.  This thickness metric will be a tiebreaker in case of two or more systems with identical weights, with the lower the protrusion the better.   

·          The lightest weight system weighing 4kg or less at the weigh-in and meeting the total energy requirement as demonstrated in the competitive demonstration (bench plus field tests) is the winner.  Second and third place prizes are awarded to systems that meet the power and weight requirements but weigh more than the first place winner.   

·          DoD laboratory personnel will conduct a safety evaluation of each system prior to the competition to verify that the system is safe to proceed into bench testing and field-testing.  Competitors will be given the opportunity to meet the safety criteria if the initial evaluation determines that the system is unsafe to begin the test.  No radioisotope or nuclear power sources are permitted.