Power Up! Portable power for soldiers on the move

Photo of soldiers in field training

1. Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are looking for innovative power storage and power generation solutions for dismounted soldiers. The goal is to increase soldiers’ autonomy, decrease the physical and cognitive burden of power storage technologies, and decrease the costs of fielding and exploiting wearable power technologies.

2. Background and Context

The dismounted soldier relies on many different power consuming systems (e.g., GPS, radio, Integrated Soldier System, night and thermal vision devices, etc.) that derive their energy from different types of batteries. Deployment of advanced technological systems provides a tactical advantage, but they also pose a cognitive load on soldiers who have to manage the power requirements of multiple power-consuming devices that are all critical to mission performance. Having to carry many different battery dependent technologies also poses a physical burden due to their bulk and weight. Batteries are one of the heaviest components of the dismounted soldier system, at present, contributing to decreased mobility (endurance, agility and speed).

Relying on battery dependent technologies is further complicated by the need to operate in isolated and austere environments while being subjected to highly variable and extreme climatic conditions. The need to replenish batteries can affect the length of a soldier’s mission thereby limiting their independence, and it creates a logistical burden on the organization. Operating in extreme climactic conditions will also affect the capacity and degrade the performance of current power storage technologies.

Battery storage and transportation challenges are a major contributor to lifecycle costs for rechargeable batteries.  Requirements to discharge cells for air shipment, compensate for self-discharge during storage, and analysis and recalibration of rechargeable batteries are some examples of depot and unit level battery fleet management and maintenance that contribute to the logistic burden and lifecycle costs associated with soldier wearable power solutions.

New solutions are needed for lightweight, high density, reliable, and cost-effective energy sources supported by robust power generation and harvesting technologies that are adapted to dismounted operations. The ability to easily share power and to rapidly recharge power sources are highly desirable. There is a further need to minimize degradation of performance in extreme climates (e.g., the Arctic). Given that the equipment is to be provided to a large number of soldiers, solutions must also have a low lifecycle cost.

3. Desired Outcomes

Research, design concepts and technologies are sought that address, but are not limited to, the following characteristics associated with power storage and power generation;

  • Research efforts to produce lighter, low volume, long-lasting, robust, and low-cost power sources that can be quickly exchanged, shared, and/or recharged in austere environments;
  • Effective energy management solutions for soldier worn power sources and systems;
  • Alternative power generation and harvesting solutions that are cost-effective and adapted to dismounted operations (e.g., reliable, low volume, low weight, wide operating environment).

4. Additional Outcomes

  • Dramatic improvements in the operating temperature range of power sources.
  • A common power source to service the needs of multiple devices.
  • Improved interoperability of power storage and recharging solutions.
  • A scalable design that permits wearable mobile units to be upsized and integrated into facilities.

5. Supplementary Information

Solutions should not exacerbate issues with respect to “safe-handling” or logistical requirements associated with the infrastructure needed to recharge power sources.

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