Energy Efficiency

Flexible Solar Energy Harvesters for Soldiers in the Field

The US Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center and MC10, a Cambridge startup that specializes in flexible electronics, have signed a contract to develop and test flexible solar energy harvesters that can be sewn into the jackets, helmets, and backpacks of US soldiers to power electronic devices in the field. Over the course of the next year, the two research groups will work together to scale up MC10’s current flexible solar panel prototypes and increase their durability, efficiency, and flexibility.

Because the devices will be worn in the field, they need to meet a higher standard of ruggedness and flexibility than even those met by solar panels on tents or tarps. For added flexibility, the photovoltaic metal isn’t plastered on as one continuous sheet but is instead stamped on as a grid with metal islands just millimeters apart. Each is connected to its neighbors by a strip of gold ribbon wrapped in a soft conducting polymer. The eventual goal is to create a more rugged panel that will increase the battery life of the power packs soldiers carry in the field by up to 50 percent.

Learn more from Fast Company.

Image: Fast Company


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