A Very Bright Future For Deployable Power
Recent advances in technology have created a thirst for power like never before. Access to energy when and where you need it is one of today’s biggest challenges. The idea of harvesting energy from the world around us is one that holds great promise, but has yet to be completely realized. The good news is that recent advances in solar technology are making big strides in bridging this gap and enabling a multitude of new applications on the battlefield, at work, and at play.
Solar technologies have been around for decades, and the use of solar power by the defense and intelligence communities is on a very steep adoption curve. The primary driver is to reduce reliance on diesel fuel, and to diminish the massive effort required to re-supply fuel to military installations around the globe.
Today’s glass-mounted solar panels work marginally well when you are powering a large military base in a fixed location with plenty of area for the panels to be deployed. But the future of deployable power comes in an entirely different form factor: thin, flexible, and extremely efficient sheets of solar fabric designed to be carried, worn, or embedded into an array of other materials and electronic systems. This film-like material has already demonstrated efficiency of over 30 percent, with a roadmap to continue well beyond that, and is made from minute amounts of high purity single crystalline gallium arsenide (GaAs). This is two to three times the energy density of all other solar thin films. The possibilities that emerge from having access to a material that can be made into any size or shape, can generate more than 250W of electricity per square meter of surface area, and has a power to weight ratio of 1 watt per gram are numerous.
IQT Quarterly | Summer 2013, Vol 5, No. 1 | Download pdf