What's a major issue for the military, especially during war, that doesn't get much attention in the mainstream media?
The answer is power. The kind that fuels electronics and vehicles. Vehicle fuel is an expensive and logistical problem. And other sources of energy such as the battery packs being hauled around Iraq and Afghanistan are a heavy burden for troops with a lot of other things on their minds. That's why the Defense Department has lots of little research projects going on to make battery power lighter and easier to access.
One of those projects was recently funded at the University of Missouri-Columbia and promises to bring soldiers small, mobile, nanotechnology-enabled power. The university announced late last week that it has received a contract award from the Army's Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, worth up to $10 million over five years for research and development of miniature devices that would enable alternative sources of energy. The researchers will also produce nanotechnology devices for chemical and biological detection sensors. Principle researcher Shubhra Gangopadhyay's devices combine microchip technology with nanotechnology to generate millions of shockwaves.
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology Alan Shaffer listed alternative power sources as a high priority for the Director, Defense Research and Engineering, during ComDef West 2007 in San Diego in March. Shaffer said soldiers are lugging around some 30 pounds of battery power.
And just last week, Inside the Pentagon (subscription required) reported that Pentagon bureaucrats have only just begun considering an "urgent" request from Marine Corps General Richard Zilmer for renewable power systems. Zilmer, head of coalition forces in Al Anbar province, sent that request nine months ago.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth