Army Scientists Explore Wireless Power Transfer
By Dialogo May 16, 2012
The American soldier is equipped with more capabilities than ever before.
These capabilities come in the form of new and more powerful devices that translate
to a need for more power.
Currently, power is supplied to the dismounted soldier through a collection
of batteries, many of them rechargeable. A focus of Army Science and Technology is
to figure out how to power the soldier, and to enable all of his/her new
capabilities, without increasing (and ideally decreasing) his/her physical
In order to accomplish this imperative, the U.S. Army is exploring a variety
of different technologies and concepts. One exciting technology that opens up
different concepts of powering the soldier is the wireless transfer of power. The
U.S. Army is allocating $5-$6M to advance these technologies.
Wireless power could eliminate the need for bulky cables, especially between
the Soldiers helmet and vest (where centralized power sources might reside).
Wireless power also allows for the recharging of soldier gear whenever the Soldier
enters a “charging zone” to include a vehicle, certain areas within a forward
operating base, etc.
The U.S. Army funds the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology,or ISN, at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, known as MIT, in Cambridge, Mass. One of the
many discoveries at the ISN is the invention and development of strongly coupled
magnetic resonators that can transfer electrical power over (relatively) large
Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Research
Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, in Natick, Mass., have picked up this
concept and worked with the company founded by ISN technology developers, as well as
its competitors, to design systems that can wirelessly transfer power between the
Soldier helmet and the soldier vest.
Current capabilities allow for using a soldier battery (Li-145) on the vest
or torso to transmit 5W of power to a helmet receiver at about 50 percent
efficiency. Current programs are in place to increase that efficiency. As might be
expected, the shorter the distance required for power transfer, the more efficient
the transfer process.
The U.S. Army is also leveraging work performed by the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency. One effort of note explores the simultaneous wireless
recharging of multiple items. The U.S. Army's Tank and Automotive Research
Development and Engineering Center, known as TARDEC, in Warren, Mich., and
Communications Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC,
in Aberdeen, MD, are both expanding on this (and alternative) technologies to
increase the efficiency of power transfer over longer distances (15 m) so that
soldier recharging from vehicles and recharging from areas within a forward
operating base can become realities.
The concept is to develop a future interoperable system so that organic
Soldier equipment recharging can reduce both the cognitive and physical load on the
technological advances have always brought cost savings, and the improvement of tasks I hope the results may bring good goal factors.