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New Focus on Solar Power for Military Applications

written by: Tarun Goel•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/17/2011

Solar energy, if tamed and optimized properly, can eradicate all the energy woes from our earth. Solar devices being used by the military will reduce military budgets and save energy and resources. Using solar power devices for military operations has no downside.

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    The Army of the Sun?

    In the US, a huge amount is spent every year on military operations. Security and military spending sometimes exceeds public spending, which creates an unnecessary burden on the public and tax payers. However, recently the Department of Defense has announced that it is going to use solar devices for military applications, which is a welcome step as it is going to reduce defense spending and save resources. Major research, security, and defense outfits like NASA and the American Army are going green by installing solar grids for general lighting and heating purposes. This is not only cutting down electricity consumption, but also giving free time to the army personnel as the solar panels and devices do not require any maintenance, unlike conventional devices which have to be monitored (and refueled) every now and then.

    However, the use of solar power is not restricted to solar panels and grids only. The military and defense services are using solar charged devices like mini-solar-computers, GPS devices, night vision goggles, solar torches, other portable devices, and even solar-recharging tents. Thin film solar modules are specially designed for lightweight portable gadgets with rugged features that ideally suit military and defense applications. Since the cost of traditional energy sources used by the military is already high, solar modules can be produced at substantially lower costs for special purpose military uses.

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    Components of Solar Devices for Military Applications

    The solar powered devices make use of latest inventions that make these devices portable and lightweight. Reliability is the most important factor because if a device is to be used in military operations, it ought to be perfect because failing in the time of need could be fatal. Mention below mentioned are the major elements used in these portable devices.

    1 Chlorophyll-F pigment - Chlorophyll-F pigment is a new discovery that has the special property of capturing sunlight beyond the red end of the wavelength band. Harnessing the pigment can enhance bio-fuel generating algae which are very efficient. It has a larger spread of sunlight absorption than any anticipated organism. The new pigment is capable of absorbing sunlight efficiently at wavelengths around 706 nanometers, which is beyond the red end of the visible spectrum and human perception.

    Graphene 

    2 Graphene - Researchers are finding graphene an incredible material suitable for high speed electronics, microchips, and touch screen technology. Nanotechnology graphene is successfully produced in small size having high quality electrical characteristics. It is a new form of carbon made of a single layer of atoms configured in a honeycomb shaped lattice. It is highly conductive and extremely strong despite being one atom thick. A major breakthrough of the graphene project for intensifying solar energy was measuring electrical characteristics with ultra-high precision to accurate standards. The Quantum Hall Effect phenomenon is an international standard for accurately measuring electrical properties in 2D materials.

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    3 Nano Composite Capacitors - Films are created from barium titanate (BaTiO3) nano-particles. These nano-particles are held in a polymer matrix. In this new technique, the nanocomposite materials are tested at high frequencies to the extent of one megahertz. This fabrication of improved versions of these capacitors has twice the energy of existing capacitors.

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    For a Better Tomorrow

    Solar Panel Backpack 

    Today, when terrorist organizations are blooming and crime rate is increasing exponentially, compromising with the security budget is extremely risky. However, making use of the solar powered devices can prove to be a boon for economy of any country and in USA, where military spending is in billions of dollars, developing and using solar devices is definitely going to relive the taxpayers. It is equally beneficial for the soldiers too. Just for an example, if the soldiers start using solar backpacks, they will help them move fast in the battleground because they are light and easy to carry. The standard backpacks require the soldiers to carry more than 50kg of equipment, and a major part of this weight is because of batteries. The solar backpack can be used for a long time as it will be made of durable material. In the UK, the University of Glasgow has taken up the task of designing the solar backpack for British soldiers and soon it is going to be a reality. Even in USA, the Department of Defense is working to make their soldiers solar powered. For a better tomorrow, solar powered devices are must.

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    References

    GreenDiary.com - Exploiting Solar Energy to serve Soldiers in the Battlefield

    NASA - Solar Power for Lunar Living (Artwork)

    Green Initiatives Support Energy - Savings Concept, Defense.gov

    Solar power systems could lighten the load for British soldiers, Eurekalert.org

    Images:

    Graphen, Wikimedia

    Photovoltaics, Danilo RIzzuti