Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Flexible Australian solar panels for military use

They didn't take up my suggestions for lightweight solar panels for the F-35, or solar generating windows for the Bushmaster vehicle, but ANU's Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems has won a defence contract to develop solar panels for the military.
Elongate Solar Cells for Energy Generation (The Australian National University) – Flexible solar panels with high efficiency under both normal and subdued light and with high power-to-weight ratios. These solar cells would allow soldiers to generate power in the field and reduce the need for batteries. The technology may be suitable for incorporation into wearable textiles. The proposal builds on extensive solar research undertaken by The Australian National University. ...

From: Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program Collaboration, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), 20 June, 2008

Building solar panels into wearable textiles is a very difficult task. Solar cells are fragile and shiny. This makes them difficult to combine with military camouflage clothing. It would be a lot easier if the cells were built into something less flexible other than most clothing. Here is an alternative suggestion:

Low observability conformal solar panel matrix

The Low observability conformal solar panel matrix (LOCSPM) consists of thin SLIVER solar cells embedded in a resin fiber matrix. The matrix allows light to reach the cells, while supporting the cells and blocking reflections and radiation from them. The matrix consists of a grid which forms a high strength lightweight support. The matrix is composed of material which absorbs stray visible, infrared and radar frequency radiation.

The standard matrix is rigid, but can be made in shapes to conform to military equipment, such as the cases for radios and other electronic equipment, the covering of a helmet, protective vest, boots, vehicle or shelter roof panels. The matrix can be made in standard camouflage colors and patterns. The matrix can contribute to the ballistic and structural properties of the equipment it is attached to, proving protection from blast fragments and additional strength.

Flexible panels are also possible. For large scale non-mobile applications the panels can be made to track the sun for increased efficiency.

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