Alta Develops Solar Charger for Soldiers, Cuts About 25 lb From Pack Weight
January 4, 2013 5:13 PM
comment(s) - last by
New solar mats will also soon be targeted at the consumer market
“We have come to rely on mobile machines and devices that always need a source of power whether it be the grid, batteries, or fuel,”
Chris Norris, president and CEO of Alta Devices. “But in the next decade, we will come to expect mobile power that is transparently available at all times.”
The enterprising solar startup Alta, with some help from the
Army Research Laboratory
(ARL), just launched a reference design that allows soldiers to
drastically slash their pack weight
. Whether it's night vision goggles or a laptop computer, soldiers on average carry around 35-lb of batteries, or roughly a third of their 100-lb pack weight.
The new charger design cuts the battery load by 70 percent, slashing around 25-lb from the pack.
Alta is also working the ARL and other U.S. Military partners to add the company's proprietary
flexible, thin-film solar panels
to unmanned aerial vehicles, allowing them to
stay aloft for months
, or even years.
A marine uses a solar charger in Afghanistan. [Image Source: AP]
Comments Mr. Norris, "There are nearly limitless opportunities for always-available mobile power. We are initially targeting applications where the need is well understood and the opportunity is substantial. Over time, we see huge markets being enabled by this kind of mobile power."
Alta's homepage states that the company is aggressively targeting the consumer and automotive markets with civilian devices. The company's claims its panels carry "world-record cell (28.8%) and module (24.1%) efficiencies". Founded by two top California-area professors in 2008, the company is already turning heads in the defense sphere, but hopes to translate that into commercial success in the civilian market in years to come.
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RE: Good for soliders (?)
1/5/2013 11:21:50 PM
Gripes from an 03...
I doubt anyone will find budget room for this as far as "work" related use goes. It does not interface with commonly used ECMs so we still have to carry a load of 2590/5590 batteries for two way trips. Laptops and portable systems usually last long enough on the battery they come with. Maybe you can trickle charge radios but people will just plug their phones into it making it moot.
For personal use, most guys use cheap solar pads from the PX. I use a 5590 from my stash for charging phones. If I ever need to charge something bigger, spare laptop batteries are about $25 and a good 250Watt/hr battery is about $200, solar rolls up to 60-80 watts exist but cost your left nut and will probably be stolen.
Even if 25 pounds of batteries got cut, it will be filled with something else.
If POG, stop whining, you have a truck.
RE: Good for soliders (?)
1/7/2013 3:24:13 PM
As another fellow Marine (2621 and 0331) I cannot see how this really helps. The only place I would see this as useful would be back in a command post where you would set a recharging stations like seen in the photo. And that would all be carried by vehicles anyways so wouldn't go in the pack. You still need to carry batteries with you on any ops. And if it's an op where you won't be taking a vehicle it's probably not going to be a long enough op to really need it. Not to mention many ops are carried out after dark so we have night vision advantage so having solar mats doesn't really help.
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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