High-tech tools require power, and lots of it. In combat zones where power supplies might be destroyed or inaccessible, that's a problem. When their gadgets' batteries run dry, soldiers must return to base to recharge critical equipment, such as night vision goggles, environmentally-controlled clothing, radios, handheld computers, mine detectors, range finders, infrared sights and other tools.
To find new solutions to this challenge, the Department of Defense sponsored the Wearable Power Prize Competition. 169 teams registered, with the winning prize going to DuPont and a German firm called SFC Smart Fuel Cell AG, for their M-25 fuel cell.
The M-25 is a wearable power source that combines direct methanol technology with fuel cell systems. The result? A device that's 80 percent lighter than conventional batteries, but provides constant power for at least 72 hours [source: Military & Aerospace Electronics]. The M-25 can continually provide a minimum of 20 watts, with short spurts of 200 watts [source: Matthews]. That's a big jump in performance -- more than three times the power supply that soldiers now carry in the field. And that's enough power to keep navigation and communications systems working in harsh, multi-day missions where recharging stations are few and far between.