Feeds

DARPA: Give us solar cells you can use to build stuff

Robotic 'Power Skin' would also be Power Bone™

Intelligent flash storage arrays

US military brainiacs have notified the boffinry community that they need a new miracle material called "Power Skin", which would "harvest" energy from its surroundings and also be strong enough to make robots out of.

The Power Skin notion comes of course from DARPA, the Pentagon techwar shop where they're not at home to Mister Practical; but where rooms are always kept prepared for Mister Unfeasible and his old chum Mister Cockup.

The new miracle-stuff is to be a "lightweight structural material that provides its own day and night power ... essentially a thin monolithic sheet ... to be used as an independent power source and, simultaneously, serve as the structural material to build lightweight platforms such as UAVs and other robots".

According to the Pentagon warboffins:

The objectives of the “Power Skin” concept are three-fold:

1) Day/Night energy harvesting from the environment

2) Energy storage and recharge capabilities

3) Integration of the harvesting and storing components into thin sheets and/or on a thin lightweight backing material for structural integrity

As a notional scenario, the “Power Skin” development can be framed as power material to be used in small UAVs to demonstrate continuous flight for four days. The ultimate goal is to develop a technology that will enable indefinite flight endurance.

DARPA seems to be inspired here by plans and prototypes for solar-powered UAVs, able to store enough juice during sunlight to keep flying through the hours of darkness. These have already demonstrated quite long flights, though so far mainly near the Equator and at midsummer. The agency is already seeking to build much more capable, larger versions able to stay airborne for years at a stretch, even in polar regions.

Building such aircraft would be hugely easier if their airframe structure generated and stored electric power itself, rather than needing separate solar cells and batteries. The new material would actually be functioning in the role of "Power Bone" or "Power Skeleton" as much as "Power Skin".

There would be plenty of other applications for working solar-cell/battery/structural combo material, of course. Spacecraft designers would surely find it useful: so would gadgetry or car makers - or even architects, perhaps, if it was cheap enough.

There does seem to be a slight air of "why don't they just invent a simple cheap pill which turns a tank of water into petrol" about this, though. It would obviously be great if the requested "Power Skin" miracle-stuff existed, and the fuselage of an aircraft or the bodywork of a car could be solar cells and batteries too.

But that doesn't mean it'll happen. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.