7 Ways the Military is Using Eco Tech

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words eco and military strung together is irony, right? Isn’t it hypocritical to use clean technology like solar, biofuel, fuel cells and hybrid vehicles, while “securing” nations with rich oil reserves? The U.S. military doesn’t think so. It wants to save money on energy, use new technologies that can be useful in remote environments, and heck, maybe even get some of that green PR in there as well. Below are 7 eco tools the military has been working on or with:

powerfilm1.jpgPowerfilm, Solar Field Shelters: If you need solar power in the field, why not have it on your tents? Powerfilm, working with the Army’s Natick Soldier Center, has developed three army tents that use the company’s thin amorphous silicon technology.

Military Aviation Biofuel: Last July, the DOE’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started looking into how to reduce the military’s reliance on traditional fuel for aircrafts, an effort it calls the BioFuels program. DARPA’s aim is to design bio-aviation fuel that starts with a 60 percent or greater conversion efficiency, leading to a 90 percent conversion efficiency.

mtimicro1.jpgMTI Micro’s fuel cells: Late last year, MTI Micro Fuel Cells made its Mobion 30M — a light, phone book-sized system fuel cell system — available to military customers for testing. It should be fully commercialized in 2008. (Update: MTI says they are now focusing on the military adaptation of the Mobion 1 — shown in the photo — and more recently discontinued the platform which included the Mobion 30M.)

Efficient in-the-field solar cells: In July, DARPA started a three-year effort with the newly formed DuPont-University of Delaware Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) Consortium to produce solar cell modules that are more than 50 percent efficient and cost less than $1,000 per square meter. The logistics of supplying batteries to soldiers in the field is tricky — especially for short field jobs — and cheap, efficient solar power could save on labor, time and money.

baehybrid1.jpgGround Combat Hybrid: This month, BAE Systems (BAESY) showed off what it says is the first hybrid electric drive system for ground combat vehicles as part of the Army’s Future Combat Systems program.

Soldier Solar: According to the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Engineering and Development Center, the Army is working with United Solar Ovonic’s to create a “UNI-PAC solar panel,” which can be worn by soldiers and adapted to recharge a field generator or vehicle.

aggressor1.jpgArmy’s Aggressor: The Aggressor — an off-road military vehicle for ground exploration and scouting missions — is getting a diesel-electric hybrid version.