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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,” said 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.

Marine solar charger
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.

Source: Alta Devices

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RE: Pack weight
By flyingpants1 on 1/6/2013 4:24:59 AM , Rating: 3
35lbs though?

RE: Pack weight
By headbox on 1/6/2013 6:31:58 PM , Rating: 2
I was an RTO on a LRSD team (infantry scouts) and only the RTO carries the heaviest commo gear. Everyone else carries something much smaller and lighter- a few pounds maybe. In a regular infantry platoon, there is 1 RTO. So the answer is no, a typical soldier doesn't carry anywhere near 35 lbs of batteries. Even an RTO planning for a long range patrol would at most carry 4 batteries, and the heaviest I know of were 6 lbs each.

Ammo is the heaviest part of the equipment, and it's why the 5.56 NATO is superior to the 7.62x39 Russian- you can carry more than twice the ammo & magazines for the same weight.

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