Brilliant French military strategist Napoleon Bonaparte (or Frederick the Great of Prussia, depending on the source) once said an army marches on its stomach. Modern armies, however, march on GPS, GIS and with weapons often powered by computers.
What this means, practically, is that modern armies need smart, reliable electricity sources in the field that can power the equipment – and that’s why the Army Research Laboratory’s Army Research Office (ARL-ARO) has awarded a $6.5 million research contract to a group of researchers to develop high power, flexible, and lightweight solar modules for portable power applications.
NanoFlex Power Corp., SolAero Technologies, the University of Michigan (UM) and the University of Wisconsin (UW) will be using the grant to work on creating flexible solar modules that more than double the power of current flexible solar modules.
As part of the program, NanoFlex will provide the technology (developed by UM) to lower production costs by allowing the reuse of wafer substrates. SolAero will integrate the technology into its fabrication t0 produce ultra-high efficiency, compound semiconductor solar cells. Once the cells are manufactured, NanoFlex will design high-power, flexible, and lightweight solar-module prototypes for portable soldier power applications. Finally, UM and UW researchers will evaluate the process to see if even further cost reductions are possible in the module production.
The four-year contract was awarded by the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command and the ARL-ARO.
Presently, the Army uses smaller modules that struggle to harvest sufficient power while soldiers are conducting extended operations.