ARMY WANTS SOLAR-POWERED TENTS, UNIFORMS

solar_cell.JPG"If We Run Out of Batteries, This War is Screwed."That was the headline to one of my favorite embedded accounts of the Iraq invasion. And it captured a fundamental truth about today's military: with so much warfighting gear going electronic, battles are increasingly won or lost by the side with the best power supply.To break the battery addiction, the Army has been pouring more and more resources into alternative and renewable ways to generate power. The latest example, reports John Gartner in today's Wired News: "flexible solar panels that can be layered on top of a tent, or rolled up into a backpack to provide a portable power source."Long-term, the idea is to have solar panels that can be camouflaged into tents or even uniforms. So the Army is working with contractors "to develop nanotechnology-based solar panels that can be woven directly into fabric. [The] technology replaces silicon with dye polymer plastics that transform any kind of light into electrical energy," Gartner writes."We want to cut back on the things that soldiers have to bring with them," including generators and personal battery packs, Jean Hampel, with the Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center, tells Gartner. "In modern warfare, portable power for communications technology is every bit as important as firepower and manpower."

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