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January4, 2007: Making life easier for the troops is often expensive. Take the issue of lights in tents. Command posts and administrative operations in the field often operate out of tents. Normally, light is provided by banks of fluorescent light tubes or incandescent light bulbs. But these are tough to store for transport because the glass in them is fragile. So the U.S. Army has started using electroluminescent panels. These are basically fabric panels that, when plugged in, light up. You can leave them attached to the tent fabric when you take the tent down. But the panels don't put out as much light as fluorescent light tubes, and are much more expensive. For example, a electroluminescent panel that would put light equivalent to a hundred watt incandescent light bulb would be half a square meter (about 780 square inches) in size, and cost several hundred dollars. But in a combat zone, any amount of effort and hassle you can reduce, makes the troops more capable in the face of the enemy.

 


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