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U.S. Army Testing Energy Harvesting Backpack

The U.S. Army wants to build backpacks that generate electricity when the person wearing them walks.

The Army Research Laboratory is testing a prototype of what it calls the “Energy Harvesting Backpack” at facilities in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

The prototype is essentially a standard assault backpack equipped with a two-spring frame that moves up and down as the wearer walks or runs, generating power from the motion. The power is used to recharge a soldier’s battery.

Lightning Packs, a company founded by a professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania named Larry Rome, developed the core technology used in the Energy Harvesting Backpack. In 2005, Rome came up with the idea for the energy harvesting backpack while researching the physiology behind the movement of animals.

Currently, the Army Research Laboratory has only tested the backpack on about a dozen people. When it completes testing on 20 people, it plans to publish its results.

ARL is not the only military outfit keen on wearable power technology. Several branches of the U.S. military have also sponsored research on wearable power. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Defense established the Wearable Power Prize to encourage companies to design a system that could lighten or eliminate the battery content needed to power electronics carried by 21st century foot soldiers.

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