Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man in a scene from “Avengers: Infinity War”. (Marvel Studios via AP)
The Army is testing a prototype self-generating “Ironman-like” soldier exoskeletons, designed to massively change missions by supporting the development of soldier movement, the generation of electricity, the feeding of the weapons systems and the substantial decrease of the weight of the burden of what troops wear in the war.
Energy harvesting technology can extend mission life for the small units or dismounted soldiers on patrol. The new concept, described by the Army developers as a technical breakthrough is made, not so much for the short term, but 10 to 20 years on the road.
“The design is for an energy-harvesting exoskeleton to the needs of dismounted soldiers. The system can extract energy from the movement of the soldier as they move around,” Dr. Nathan Sharps, mechanical engineer, Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The implications of this type of technology are substantial. While exoskeletons have been in development for several years, the technology constantly confronts the challenge of finding ways to support mobile power sources to support the functionality.
In addition, the current use of batteries presents significant control challenges due to difficulty with the charge and the huge amount of weight involved in pulling them through a battle.
For example, a soldier equipped with a portable 35 pound generator, water, ammunition, weapons, and communications equipment, mission duration, and the soldier of the effectiveness is greatly affected. The Army is pursuing various efforts to “relieve the load” for soldiers for many years.
“The technologies we develop can the production of electricity, which can be stored and used to power the batteries. This increases the lifetime of a mission, reducing the need for resupply and reduce the logistics trail,” Sharps explains.
Sharps will be further elaborated during intense combat involvement, the victims often occur during the logistics resupply missions.
An additional advantage is that, while the technology to harvest energy from the movement of soldiers, but also at the same time, it relieves the stress on their joints and muscles as a result of the device.
“This reduces the risk of musculo-skeletal injury. We look to the soldier as an individual ecosystem. We are not only looking for what they can’t do now, but also at what challenges are they planning to face 20 years from now,” Sharps said.
The emerging system, which is currently in the early stages of the exploration, calls a joint effort between CERDEC, the Army Research Laboratory and the Army Natick Soldier Center.
The scientists explain that the added electrical energy decreases the number of calories of a soldier has to burn.
“If you move, you bounce up and down, and the gait: the movement is an inverted pendulum. If you take the elevator, every step a thousand times, it is a whole lot of energy that you consume,” said Juliane Douglas, mechanical engineer, CERDEC, told Warrior Maven.
The Army is currently investigating different configurations for the exoskeleton, some of which feature a suspended backpack, which slide up and down on a spring, that little or no weight has an effect on the soldier.
“In mechanical engineering at the terms and conditions, if you move the masses together, there is a kinetic energy difference between the two. We have mechanisms that can convert the linear motion into electricity,” said Douglas.
This technical lead will have an impact on a wide range of new systems built in exoskeletons. Not surprisingly, many of these rely on the mobile power supply for operation.
For example, helmets with a high-resolution thermal sensors, computers, different types of compliant body armor and many weapons systems are built in a range of Ironman-like exoskeletons.
U. S. Special Operations Command of the current TALOS effort is working with a wide range of industry, military and academic experts on the plans for the construction of the initial exoskeleton prototypes in the next year or two. This longer-term CERDEC effort is the kind of thing that can easily merge with, or integration into, some of these exoskeletons is now being built.
The project, officially called the Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is focused on delivering special operators, including Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, the statement said.
The technologies that are currently being developed are body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increase systems and extra protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons. — Read Warrior Maven the TALOS story CLICK HERE —
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the development of a next-generation kind of armor “liquid body armor.”
The “changes from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army’s website said.
TALOS is a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement said.
Army evaluators also have the review of a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee stress release device travels with soldiers at Fort A. P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new improvement of the performance of soldier technologies.
With the help of independent actuators, motors, lightweight and conformal structures, lithium-ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up to five steps, while consumes less energy.
FORTIS is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt closes with a flexible hip sensors in the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in the area, along with the speed and the speed of the movements.
CERDEC developers say that their effort is to observe and work closely with many of these efforts in search of exoskeleton technologies able to better protect and enable soldiers in combat.
“What we do is the design of the conversion technologies for many of these technologies more effective by storing the energy. We are testing prototypes, and we can use the current scale to work and to use it as a platform for our systems,” Douglas said.
This story originally appeared on Warrior Maven.