Wearable Tactical Energy
Next-generation solar cells and batteries are helping to get Marines and other ground troops the renewable power they need in the field.
The Squad Electrical Power Network (SEPN) Vest Power Manager (VPM-402).
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Elliott Fabrizio)
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has led pioneering research in the field of wearable tactical energy for infantry on foot. The Squad Electric Power Network (SEPN) project was a five-year Future Naval Capability awarded to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in 2010- 2014. It resulted in a wearable, personal power system able to interface with any electrical load and electrical source between four and 34 volts DC, and to sustain a central power source. The Vest Power Manager (VPM 402) provided dismounted Marines with a quick, easy-to-use interface that supplies power to their most commonly carried electronic devices (radios, navigation, night vision, and computers).
Another ONR-led effort was the Lightning Pack, a backpack that converts human motion into electricity. This backpack, along with the SEPN- based power manager, is being evaluated to further increase the energy sustainment of dismounted combatants.
SEPN teamed with the Naval Research Laboratory and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office to create the Marine Austere Patrol System (MAPS), which was demonstrated at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. MAPS integrated a Naval Research Laboratory- developed triple junction solar panel with the VPM 402 to sustain Marines over a multiday mission—eliminating battery resupply.
Mobile Solar Power is another related ONR effort. The goal is for lightweight, high-efficiency photovoltaic blankets to displace batteries at the individual Marine and squad levels, as well as to replace generators at the forward operating base level. The technology is producing approximately 0.5 watt/gram, at $350 per watt with 30 percent efficiency. The goal is 1 watt/gram, at $20 per watt or less with efficiencies of at least 20 percent. Several alternative solar cell chemistries are being explored to provide suitable power at decrease cost and weight.
The Squad Electrical Power Network (SEPN) is a technology system that improves the sustainability of dismounted Marines on patrol by providing them with a central energy source, a wearable solar panel and a water filtration system.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)