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New Lights Reduce Deployment Time
Panels, which are attached to tent walls, can be punctured, torn, twisted and still light up.
By U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick Public Affairs Office

NATICK, Mass., Sept. 6, 2006 – The Natick Soldier Center is developing electroluminescent panels for shelters.

The center is working with the private company Crosslink to develop electroluminescent (EL) textile technology. The EL technology will be incorporated into panels, which can then be attached to the walls of softwall shelters to function as a white-light source.

Alternatively, the EL technology can be directly integrated into the shelter materials thus eliminating attachment assembly.

Natick is collaborating with Crosslink, a St. Louis-based company that develops and manufactures electroactive polymer coatings for integration with a variety of plastics, metals, and textiles, under a Broad Agency Agreement intended to encourage innovative approaches to technology research.

The EL technology is an improvement over the typical lighting source used in Army shelters.

According to NSC project officer Benjamin LaPointe, "Soldiers currently use hardened fluorescent lights. These fluorescent lights are in a special container to protect the fragile glass tubes. They are heavy, contain toxic materials, have trouble starting in the cold, and have to be set up after the shelter is erected."

"In contrast, the new EL panels are flexible, durable, and lightweight,” he said. “The panels can be attached to tent walls, and the lighting can be
collapsed with the shelter so that troops don't have

The light panels, which will be integrated into the softwall shelter, can be punctured, torn, twisted or crunched and still light up. Photo Courtesy Natick Soldier Center

to come back and get them later. The system thus enhances logistics and reduces deployment time."

The lighting system can be pre-attached to or directly integrated into the softwall shelter so that warfighters will not have to set up lights in addition to setting up the shelter.

"The idea is that the lights will be semi-permanently attached to the inside of the shelter," LaPointe explained.

The light panels use an efficient power controller developed by Crosslink, which can be plugged into any normal power outlet.

The panels can withstand being punctured, torn, twisted or crunched and still light up. According to LaPointe, this system would be particularly useful in combat environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where quick deployment time and the ability to pack up and relocate swiftly are important.

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Nov. 26, 2014
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