Pentagon to Hold Battery Pack Contest

The increasing number of electronic gadgets carried by American soldiers in the field has prompted the Pentagon to hold a $1 million competition for developers to invent a better battery pack.

Soldiers carry a lot of battery-powered electronics in the field today, including radios, night vision goggles and global positioning systems. The competition, announced today by John Young, the director of Defense Research and Engineering, is intended to gather and test ideas for reducing the weight of the batteries needed to power all that equipment.

The competition will take place in fall 2008, and the winner will receive a $1 million prize. Second place will receive $500,000 and third place will be awarded $250,000.

The objective of the competition is to develop a wearable, prototype system that can power a standard soldier's equipment, or an average of 20 watts, for 96 hours but weighs less than half that of current batteries, or less than 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds). All components, including the power generator, electrical storage, control electronics, connectors and fuel must weigh four kilograms or less, including all attachments.

The lightest system (weighing 4 kilograms or less) will be the winner. In the case of systems with identical weights, a “wearability” criterion -- measured by the maximum thickness that a system protrudes from the body when attached to a garment, with the thinnest system being judged the winner -- will be used as a tie breaker.

A public forum in the Washington, D.C. region will be held in September to brief competitors on the technical details, rules and qualification requirements. Competitors must register by Nov. 30.

The competition is open for international participation, but the individual or team leader must be a U.S. citizen.

The funding for the competition was provided in the fiscal 2007 Defense authorization bill.