DOD dangles $1M prize for wearable power system

DOD Wearable Power Prize

Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:20 a.m. July 9, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

If someone can come up with a wearable system that provides a warfighter who is on foot with four days’ worth of electrical power in a package that weighs not much more than 8 pounds, the Defense Department has $1 million it wants to give for it.

That’s the top prize in a competition DOD announced July 5 for a new generation of portable power systems that will drive all of the essential electronic equipment that warfighters on foot carry today – radios, night-vision devices and global positioning systems– but with much less fatigue-causing impact.

The standard battery pack the warfighter now carries weighs more than twice the competition’s goal of 8.8 pounds or less. That target includes the power generator and all of the storage, control electronics, connectors, fuel and attachments that are needed to complete the power system.

The system should be capable of producing an average of 20 watts of electrical power for at least 96 hours.

Power generation has been undergoing a revolution as new technologies such as fuel cells, which combine oxygen and hydrogen in an electrochemical process, are being developed to supplement or replace bulkier and heavier technologies.

The challenge is to get those newer technologies to the level of durability and dependability of the older technologies.

A final “wear-off” competition, which will take place in fall 2008, will test wearable prototype systems that meet DOD’s targets. The department will award three prizes: $1 million for first place, $500,000 for second place and $250,000 for third place.

A public information forum to provide potential competitors with technical details and information on the competition will be held in September in the Washington area. All competition participants must register by Nov. 30.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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