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Wanted: Wearable Power System, Batteries Included

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2007 – The Defense Department is offering $1 million to the person who invents a way for servicemembers to take a load off.

During a conference call with Internet “bloggers” today, William Rees, deputy undersecretary of defense for laboratories and basic sciences, explained the department’s “wearable power” competition announced earlier this month.

Currently, an individual servicemember on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan carries roughly 40 pounds of batteries to provide four days’ worth of power. The department’s goal, he explained, is to lower the load to less than 9 pounds.

The essential electronic equipment that dismounted warfighters carry today -- radios, night-vision devices, global positioning systems -- runs on batteries. This competition will gather and test good ideas for reducing the weight of batteries that servicemembers carry.

“We are setting the bar high,” Rees told the bloggers. “We don’t think it’s unrealistically high, but we acknowledge it’s a challenge.”

To spur private citizens, companies or international organizations into designing a light, wearable electric power system for warfighters, the department is offering $1 million for first place, $500,000 for second place and $250,000 for third place in the competition.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams in a final competitive demonstration, planned for fall 2008. At this “wear-off,” individuals or teams will demonstrate their prototype systems under realistic conditions, Defense Department officials said.

The top three competitors that demonstrate a complete, wearable system that produces 20 watts average power for 96 hours but weighs less than 4 kilograms will win the prizes.

“The mantra is four days, 4 kilograms,” Rees said during an interview earlier this month.

Information about the technical details, contest rules and qualification requirements is posted on the Defense Department Web site. A forum to be held in Washington in September will review these details for potential competitors.

Competitors must register to participate in the prize program by Nov. 30. The competition is open for international participation; however the individual or team leader must provide proof of U.S. citizenship. Details on the forum, as well as contest registration and rules, are posted on the Defense Research and Engineering Prize Web site, www.dod.mil/ddre/prize.

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Related Sites:
Defense Research and Engineering Prize Web Site

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