Mechanical To Electrical Conversions–Old Concept Rebuilt On New Technology.


In a net centric battlefield, electronics is as important, if not more so, than soldier protection equipment and the choice of soldier weapon systems. Engagements and battles are won with accurate and timely dissemination of  intelligence, command and control and battlefield awareness; as a result, powered “smart” devices now permeate the armed forces and nowhere is that more visible than with ground forces. SOF, Big Army and USMC are increasingly becoming more dependent on electronic devices to meet mission objectives – something that I termed a few years ago as the electrification of the soldier.

To support the increased use of electronics, ground forces are required to carry an increasing number of batteries and the U.S. Army estimates, going forward, a soldier will need to carry 14 lbs. of batteries to support a 72 hour deployment, so the Army has been looking at ways to reduce and /or eliminate that requirement by implementing energy transformation technologies.

Energy transformation is nothing more than converting one form of energy to another. It’s like the hand cranks used during World War I and II to provide electrical power for comms stations and other uses.

A Soldier conducts dismounted maneuvers wearing Lightning Pack's Rucksack Harvester, Bionic Power's Knee Harvester and MC-10's photovoltaic, or PV, Solar Panel Harvester during an energy harvesting technology demonstration held at Ft. Devens, Mass. by the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

Photo by David Kamm

The soldier depicted above is both actively and passively engaged in energy transformation. For example, the device worn on his legs is a knee harvester designed and built by Bionic Power Inc, based in British Colombia, Canada. It converts the mechanical energy of a walking soldier to electrical power. Bionic Power, markets the device as the PowerWalk™ M-Series; developed in collaboration with the Canadian Forces and the US Army. It resembles an athletic knee brace and weighs about 850 grams (1.7 lbs.) per leg. With a device on each leg, a user walking at a size0comfortable speed generates an average of 12 watts of electricity. At this rate, a little over one hour of walking generates enough electricity to charge four mobile phones. The PowerWalk™ M-Series intelligently adjusts the amount of energy that it harvests as a function of walking speed and terrain, harvesting more energy when available and dialing back energy harvesting when it might be obtrusive.

A second device built by Lightning Pack and marketed as Rucksack Harvester converts the mechanical movement of the pack on the soldiers back as he or she walks or double times to electrical energy. Lightning Pack publishes the following performance criteria.


      Avg. Electrical Power

Walking at Relaxed Pace

12-15 W

Walking at Hump Pace

20-35 W


33-40 W


The solar panel attached to the soldier’s pack is MC-10′s ( Cambridge, MA) photovoltaic, or PV, Solar Panel Harvester.

MC10 Military and Industrial


Here is the commercial version…


Equipment List

  • Bushnell Power Sync (Energy Storage and Solar Panel), used for charging electronic devices with USB compatibility.
  • Smart Phone (voice communications, computation, data, imaging and GPS)
  • Tablet (computation, imaging, GPS, data, situational awareness)
  • Iridium Go – WiFi hotspot (provides voice and data connectivity via satellite when G3 networks are not available).

Words for the day: “Assume nothing and stay on your toes” 

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