Army Scientists Explore Wireless Power Transfer

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

dismounted soldier.

technological advances have always brought cost savings, and the improvement of tasks I hope the results may bring good goal factors.