, a Cambridge, Mass., startup specializing in flexible electronics, has signed a one year contract with the US Army to develop and test solar cell technology for military use.
The technology will take the form of wearable solar panels built into military personnel's clothing to power up America’s GIs, while decreasing the number of battery packs lugged around.
MC10 specializes in re-engineering rigid electronics into flexible forms and has made significant strides in creating human vital stat sensors which have been successfully applied to surgical patients and athletes alike. The sensors are typically a 1-inch flexible patch that tracks temperature, heart rate and hydration.
The company has been looking at solar power since early 2011, when the first flexible solar grids were demoed by company's co-founder John Rogers.
For the necessary flexibility required for solar powered clothing, MC10 uses flexible microgrids of solar cells, connected by gold ribbon wrapped in a soft conducting polymer. The wearable solar cells harness the power of gallium arsenide, the light harvesting metal compound built into high-efficiency solar panels found on rooftops.
"At the end of it we'll have fully functional devices that are integratable into backpacks and helmets and jackets," say Ben Schlatka, MC10's cofounder and VP of business development.
The one year contract will allow MC10 to scale up production and testing of the technology to a capacity that will fast track the commercial availability of wearable solar cells.
"Picture your favorite shirt with power harvesting capability," Schlatka says.
More power to the military, or is this idea going to flatline? And more importantly, would you wear one?