News | Mar 9, 2018

Weekly Tech Roundup: Human Movement Charges Smartphones & Tablets, Enhanced Solar Cells

Some of the world's most advanced energy technologies are invented in defense laboratories and available to your business for product development

News Article Image of Weekly Tech Roundup: Human Movement Charges Smartphones & Tablets, Enhanced Solar Cells

Navy chemists have discovered a way to harvest electrical energy by putting a storage device in a backpack, strap, or in the heel of a shoe to power small devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Defense laboratories are developing some of the most advanced energy technologies in the world.  Their scientists and engineers are continually working on novel ideas that will shape the future of energy demands through increased efficiency, improved safety, and lowered costs.

TechLink recently added five new inventions that could help your business be a leader in the energy sector.

Here are the details on this week’s technology roundup:

Human Movement Charges Smartphones and Tablets

There are countless battery charging devices on the market, but not many that charge a battery simply by using human movements. The DoD Power Systems Initiative called for lighter batteries to ease the warfighter’s burden when on foot.

So chemists at the Navy’s China Lake lab discovered a way to harvest electrical energy by putting a storage device in a backpack, strap, or in the heel of a shoe to power small devices such as smartphones and tablets. This technology would be ideal for a backpack, strap, or in the heel of a shoe.

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Enhanced Solar Cells

Solar cells and batteries are extensively used throughout the DoD in thousands of different applications. For example, solar cells and batteries are needed to keep smaller drones and unmanned systems loitering in the air for longer periods of time. Extended batteries allow for enhanced operations and even minor improvements can achieve significant operational results.

Navy researchers have developed a new technology for increasing the efficiency and durability of solar cells by enhancing and trapping light absorbance.

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High-Efficiency Photovoltaic Structure

While solar power continues at a steady rate of adoption, there is an ongoing need for increased efficiency of photocurrent generation. Solar cells use a photon absorption process where an incoming photon generates charge carriers such as an electron-hole pair in the material. The photo-generated electron-hole pair is converted into a photocurrent by applying an electric field separating the charge carriers in conducting elements. Efficiency suffers when the photo-generated electron-hole pairs recombine, emitting a second photon at the same or slightly different wavelength. This second photon may then escape the structure or may be trapped in the material by impurities and other defects, without generating a photocurrent. These scattering events deplete the energy of the photogenerated electron-hole pairs and generate excess heat with no photocurrent.

To address the complexity of current solar cells and increase their efficiency, Army researchers have developed a photovoltaic cell of contrasting metallic and properly doped semiconductor layers.

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Smart Battery Charger Technology

Li-ion rechargeables are the entrenched energy technology for laptops, smartphones, and all sorts of portable devices.

Smart Battery Charger

The rechargeable lithium battery market was approximately $9.4 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow to more than $11.9 billion by 2020. Li-ion rechargeables are the entrenched energy technology for laptops, smartphones, and all sorts of portable devices. One weak point for these batteries is their potential to overcharge and fail. This concern is heightened when multiple batteries are charged from a common source in a series configuration.

The shunt regulators previously used to address this issue are inexpensive but they are also highly inefficient due to the amount of energy they dissipate during the shunting action. This dissipation of energy also shortens the lifetime of associated circuitry. Navy researchers have bypassed the inefficiency issue with a novel multiple-battery charging device, utilizing a common source, and capable of handling different battery sizes.

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New, Stronger, Longer-Lasting Batteries

Today’s capacitors do not last. A car battery can handle about three cycles at high depth of discharge and has trouble operating at low temperatures. Many battery systems are unable to handle high power (fast charge/discharge), and battery systems have to be over-designed to handle high-power loads. Portable energy storage is becoming a critical problem for both the civilian and the military.

Scientists at the Navy’s China Lake lab now have two patents for enhanced capacitors and batteries using ionic liquids. These new batteries are stronger, solvent free, and capable of recharging thousands of times at very high temperatures.

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Is your business interested in one of these hot technologies? Get in touch with TechLink’s experts for no-cost licensing assistance. Looking for something else? Search our extensive database of technology.

Up next: How to license technology from defense laboratories

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