Solar Technology to Benefit Soldiers

Not long ago it would have been the stuff of science fiction, but developing solar technology could soon see Australian soldiers going into battle equipped with solar panels.

The Australian National University’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems has developed lightweight and wearable solar panels which convert light directly into electricity via sliver solar technology.

Forming the basis for the wearable solar panels, the sliver cells are more robust than conventional solar panels and were built by Transform Solar in Boise, Idaho as part of a $2.3 million contract with the Department of Defence.

According to the project’s chief investigator Professor Andrew Blakers, the solar panels could be worn in a variety of ways, be it on a soldier’s helmet and their packs, to their tent or even on their weapons.

“We are able to use the sliver cells to make modules that can be bent around a radius of around a few centimetres,” said Professor Blakers.

On average, every soldier carries around half a kilogram of batteries to operate radios, torches and night vision devices, so implementing the technology would also reduce the weight soldiers have to carry in the field.

Professor Blakers said that civilians would also benefit from the technology, for example devices like iPhones and iPods being prime candidates for the technology.

Sliver cells are the thinnest solar cells currently in production, and the technology aims to increase the availability of solar power by reducing the amount of silicon required to manufacture solar panels. The technology uses up to 90% less silicon compared with mono crystalline cells, which therefore results in lower module costs.

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