Scientists in the UK are working on a solar powered kit that could lessen the burden on soldiers and increase their mobility by 50%. The kit is designed by the Universities of Glasgow, Loughborough, Strathclyde, Leeds, Reading, and Brunel and funded by both the Ministry of Defense and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
The new uniform will be made up of photovoltaic cells to collect the solar energy and thermoelectric devices that turn temperature variations into electricity.
Battery packs can account for over ten per cent of the 45-70kg of equipment that infantry currently carry. The solar kit avoids the need to return to base for recharging thereby increasing the range of soldiers. Moreover the system will absorb energy across the electromagnetic spectrum, making troops harder to detect by infrared night-vision equipment.
The solar concept to military uniforms is not new, but the coupling of thermoelectric devices to solar cells to generate power all day long is a first. The research team is attempting to integrate these two units into the soldier’s uniform.
But neither the military nor the researchers have forgotten that the kit only uses natural energy.
A prototype system is expected to be developed within two years. The technology could be a breakthrough and used in other demanding areas as well like the space programs for powering satellites, to transport medicines or supplies at cool temperatures and to supply fresh food in poor economic or climatic situations.