A soldier’s backpack normally weighs about 100 pounds, out of which about 35 pounds is the weight of the batteries that are used to power his electronic gear. There have been efforts in the past to reduce the weight of the batteries by means of solar charging tents, but these tents are difficult to set up and can only be used when the soldiers stop and camp. We reported about Alta Devices’ high efficiency flexible solar cells a couple of months ago and the company is back in news with a revolutionary solar charging mat for the armed forces that promises to shave about 25 pounds of weight from the backpacks of soldiers while still enabling them to harness clean energy while still marching forward.
The company, with some help from the Army Research Laboratory, has launched reference designs of solar charging mats, which can power everything from laptop computers to night vision binoculars. The solar charging mats come in two sizes with power output of 10W and 20W, both of which rely on the company’s flagship solar cells with a claimed efficiency of 24.1 percent.
The mats can be attached to the backpack to continuously generate renewable electricity, which is then used to recharge a lithium battery connected with it. Once charged, the battery can be used to power a range of portable electronic devices such as an iPad or an iPhone. TPM reports that the new invention fits in well with the U.S. military’s efforts to power more operations with the use of renewable energy.