Sunday, July 08, 2007

DOD Wearable Power System Prize

Cosmic Log has an article on a new Wearable Power Prize being offered by the Department of Defense Research and Engineering organization. There are 3 prizes offered: $1M for first place, $500K for 2nd place, and $250K for 3rd place. More prizes are expected to be announced later. I just had a chance to glance at this one, so I'll probably have more comments later.

Update July 21: The goal of the prize is to produce a light (4 kg or less) power source that can operate continuously for 96 hours with 20 watts output average, and 200 watts peak output. The goal is to produce a light power source that can be used by troops to power GPS systems, radios, etc. The lightest system that meets the other requirements wins. In case of ties, "wearability" criteria are tie-breakers.

Even though the prize has just been announced, there is already a spot to link to competing teams' sites, which is a good idea. There is also "reserved space" for teams for future prize competitions.

I wonder how much the wearable power source would benefit space applications? I suspect that astronauts would also find a light power source to be useful. Light batteries must also be important for robotic missions. In fact, one of the contests that NASA Centennial Challenges was considering was a small Lunar Night Power Source (see the last page of the slides). The Regolith Excavation Challenge also had serious mass and power considerations.

Here's the announcement of the prize, and here's a DoD news article on it. The news article notes that "A typical dismounted troop going out for a four-day mission carries as much as 40 pounds of batteries and rechargers". The prize is for a much lighter set. “Look at what it is that drives success in battle. It’s inevitably a combination of training and your ability to have decision making on your feet,” Rees said. “And that ability to have decision making is directly reduced by your fatigue. The more weight we can take off your back, the better your decision making in battle.” I'd also add that you also have the flexibility to carry something else of value.