Support: Eyes On The Prize

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October 18,2008:  The U.S. Department of Defense has found competitions, with over a million dollars in prizes, to be a faster and cheaper way to achieve technological breakthroughs. The most recent one, a competition to find a better battlefield battery, came up with three winners. The goal was to find a fuel cell that weighed less than 8.5 pounds and supplied as much battery power as the 20 pounds of currently available batteries that soldiers typically carry for a four day mission. A fuel cell uses tiny amounts of methanol or propane to trigger a chemical reaction that produces electricity. The fuel cell had to be small enough to hang off the soldiers webbing, and rugged and reliable enough to keep going under combat conditions. This type of fuel cell is already on the market, for boats or to power equipment in  remote locations. The military one will cost nearly $2,000, but weight savings is one of the constant demands of combat troops.

Another successful test was the annual "Grand Challenge" races, seeking better UGV (unmanned ground vehicles) designs. Three of these have been held so far, yielding far more new technology than the Department of Defense would normally get for a $10 million investment in research and development.

 

 


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