$1 million for better battery

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled a competition to elicit a design for a wearable battery that would provide approximately 20 watts of power for 96 hours and weigh 4 kilograms or less.

The first-place prize for winning the competition is $1 million. Second- and third-place winners will receive $500,000 and 250,000 respectively, DARPA said.

A unit that would meet those specs would, in effect, be about twice as efficient as currently available batteries, according to DARPA's detailed description of the rules and conditions of the competition.

The defense research agency noted in its detailed rules that the competition would proceed according to the following schedule:
  • September 2007: public information forum, to be held in Washington
  • Oct. 8: registration opens
  • Nov. 30: registration closes
  • June 2008: final notice of intent to compete
  • Fall 2008: prize competition.

  • The battery technology development aims to finesse a problem that increasingly has impaired ground combat units as the electricity demand of their gear has ratcheted up: the need to assure that power shortages or battery weight don't hinder troops' missions.

    The competition rules noted that troops on foot now rely on various types of direct-current, dry-cell batteries. However, according to DARPA, those batteries often are discarded when only partially discharged, so soldiers won't begin their next hazardous mission with depleted units.

    'New warfighter electronic equipment provides better capability, but also requires additional energy storage,' DARPA said. 'DoD estimates that future warfighters will carry approximately 9 kilograms, almost 20 [pounds] of batteries, to complete a 96-hour mission.'

    The 4-kilogram unit envisioned by the contest rules would weigh approximately 8.8. pounds.

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