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11/3/2005
07:24 PM
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Darpa Funds Solar Power For Battlefield

The technology would have commercial use as well; plans are to develop prototypes that are affordable and that operate at efficiencies of at least 50%--versus today's peak efficiency of around 25%.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A consortium led by the University of Delaware (UD) on Wednesday (Nov. 2) said that it could receive nearly $53 million in funding — with the bulk of the money coming from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) — to more than double the efficiency of terrestrial solar cells within the next 50 months.

The technology hopes to bring solar energy for soldiers on the battlefield. It is also aimed for commercial applications as well.

The University’s Consortium for Very High Efficiency Solar Cells, which consists of 15 universities, corporations and laboratories, could receive up to $33.6 million from Darpa, if all options are awarded, and another $19.3 million from UD and corporate team members.

Those corporate members may include DuPont, BP Solar, Corning Inc., LightSpin Technologies and Blue Square Energy.

The Darpa program calls upon the consortium to develop and produce 1,000 Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) prototypes that are affordable and that operate at efficiencies of at least 50 percent. Currently, high-end solar cells operate at a peak efficiency of 24.7 percent, and solar cells off the production line operate at 15-20 percent efficiency.

The consortium’s goal is to create solar cells that operate at about 54 percent efficiency in the laboratory and 50 percent in production.

The VHESC would have immediate application in the military, which increasingly relies upon a variety of electronics for individual soldiers and the equipment that supports them. As well, it is expected the solar cells will have a large number of commercial applications.

“When successfully completed, the Very High Efficiency Solar Cell technology will be a breakthrough in providing portable power to the soldier in the field,” Douglas Kirkpatrick, program manager for Darpa, said in a statement.

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