DOD battery contest venue chosen

The Defense Department has named the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) as the site of its inaugural Wearable Power Prize competition, which carries a $1.75 million purse for the top three designs submitted.

DOD created the competition as an incentive for the private sector to develop lighter, longer-lasting batteries that soldiers can wear to power radios, navigation systems, weapons and other equipment.

The issues of battery weight and longevity are growing concerns for DOD as it equips soldiers with additional equipment that requires electricity. The department expects the contest to produce batteries that weigh less than 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), or about half as much as they do currently.

The lightest system that generates 20 watts average power for 96 hours, including the 88-hour 'wear-off,' will win $1 million. The second place finisher will win $500,000, and third prize takes home $250,000.

A unit that meets those specs would, in effect, be about twice as efficient as currently available batteries, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's detailed description of the rules and conditions of the competition.

DOD announced the Wearable Power Prize Competition in July. Its grand finale will be a 13-day showdown at the MGAGCC in Twentynine Palms, Calif., beginning Sept. 22 and ending Oct. 4 with a 'Power Wear Off' contest in which finalists' will wear their power systems for 88 hours in field conditions to test their performance when exposed to weather and motion.

Currently, troops on foot use various types of direct-current, dry-cell batteries, but often discard them when only partially discharged so they won't be hindered on the battlefield by the depleted energy units, DOD said. DARPA estimates that in the future soldiers will have to carry approximately 9 kilograms, or nearly 20 pounds, of batteries to complete a 96-hour mission.

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