Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 6 2011 Contents DEFENCE MAGAZINE
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
(DSTO) is helping advance an
innovative power generation,
harvesting and storage system
that could power a soldier’s
devices for 72 hours.
The concept is being developed
as a part of DSTO’s Capability and
Technology Demonstrator (CTD)
Program and is an all-Australian design
that could provide a major breakthrough
for the power needs of the future soldier
in the field.
The idea behind the system is simple.
The energy produced by a soldier’s
vibrations while moving is captured and
By Andrew Stackpool
The power of one
Device harvests movement to energise soldiers
converted into electricity.This power
can be used to power personal electrical
Practical problems would be the size,
robustness/reliability and weight of
the device and associated rechargeable
In cooperation with the CSIRO,
DSTO has produced just such a device,
which it calls the Flexible Integrated
Energy Device (FIED), supplemented by
the world’s first flexible hybrid lithium
DSTO’s DrVinod Puri initiated
the concept in 2007, although the
development of the flexible battery had
been in development for a longer period.
“We wanted something that helped
improve power systems that had limited
operating life and impeded a soldier’s
mobility,” he says. “And the battery is the
first of this kind of technology.”
The FIED uses a transducer to harvest
the mechanical energy from the soldier’s
motion and converts this to electrical
energy through conditioning that
optimises the conversion efficiency.The
textile-based super-capacitor enables
rapid and high-energy storage and
The FIED is constructed as a soft,
light and flexible garment.A number of
‘plug-in’ points distributed throughout
the garment allow soldiers to connect
electrical devices as they need them.
Soldiers can also wear the system on any
part of their bodies in complete comfort.
Dr Puri says that there were no impacts
from a safety perspective, especially
as the batteries could be worn in the
space under the body armour, providing
enhanced protection from damage.
Australian field trials in early 2010
proved the system’s ability to har vest
energy and currently it can generate about
87 milliwatts per kilogram of force.
DSTO hopes to increase that scale to
around 200 milliwatts per kilogram, which
would provide enough power to generate a
soldier’s personal communication devices
for about 72 hours.
Dr Puri says that DSTO had started
from scratch with the concept and
involved the CSIRO as that organisation
had the necessary laboratories
(electrical, fibre/textile and clothing) to
bring it to fruition.
“The concepts were very successful
but the main issues were the selection of
appropriate fibres for encasing lithium
fibres and developing the electrolyte in
the battery,” he says.
“It took about three years of
laboratory work and was not easy.
We started at about a 15 to 20 per cent
success rate but slowly got there.”
The initial trials program was
conducted at Salisbury and included
about 30 soldiers who said the system
“During the next two years we will
integrate FIED with flexible elongate
solar cells (trials have been completed by
ANU) and the trials will be conducted
using a complete system,”
Dr Puri says.
He believes the system should be available
for production in four to five years.
“I think this is a huge breakthrough
and if we can deliver this in five years to
the soldiers, it will revolutionise the way
power is delivered to the soldiers [for their
equipment]. Also, they will not have to
carry anything else; it is completely holistic.”
The system has one other advantage. The
batteries are completely rechargeable using
motion and solar power, and have very long
lives. So, “there is no carbon footprint”.
Above left: Student Azul Osorio Mayan from the Australian National University wears webbing with Sliver solar cells attached.The light weight solar cells were designed to
allow soldiers to carry less weight while on operations. Photo: Corporal Zenith King Above right: Webbing with Sliver solar cells attached.
• The system comprises the FIED unit,
flexible personal solar panels and
the flexible battery.
• The system can be worn and
distributed around a soldier’s body
in the most ergonomic way for the
• The system is completely portable
and can be put on or taken off by
the soldier. Also, should another
soldier experience any problems,
another soldier can use his system
to recharge the other one.
• The system will be available in
a range of sizes and dimensions
to meet the individual soldier’s
measurements and also depending
on possible operational demands
and situations. The overarching aim
is to make them as small as possible
so as not to interfere with the
soldiers’ flexibility and contained in
a number of pouches connected by
• Much consideration has been given
• The lithium battery comprises a
electrolyte and optical-fibre wiring
that is no longer contained in a
metal casing but in a textile.
• The batteries were vigorously tested
for robustness (up to 2,400 flexes)
and duration (charge and discharge
• The US Army has also expressed
considerable interest in the system.
“ I think this is a huge breakthrough and if we can deliver this in
five years to the soldiers, it will revolutionise the way power is
delivered to the soldiers [for their equipment]. Also, they will not
have to carry anything else; it is completely holistic.”
Research leader at DSTO,
Dr Vinod Puri
Research leader at DSTO, DrVinod Puri.
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