Got a better battery? DARPA's got $1 million for you

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 meets those specs would be about twice as efficient as currently available batteries, according to DARPA's detailed description of the rules and conditions of the competition.

The agency set the following schedule:
  • September: 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 increased: the need to assure that power shortages or battery weight don't hinder troops' missions.

'New warfighter electronic equipment provides better capability but also requires additional energy storage,' DARPA said.

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

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