A new solar powered battery charger will be heavily used by the military as well as other communities to charge batteries when there is no electricity available.
Soldiers in Iraq and campers in Iowa have a similar need: A way to charge AA batteries when there is no electrical outlet in sight.
Ames-based Iowa Thin Film Technologies, which is in the business of turning sunlight into power, has created a collapsible solar charger.
The initial market for the charger is expected to be the military, but the company believes the gear will eventually develop a following from outdoor enthusiasts and other consumers.
In May, the 17-year-old company received a $3.2 million contract from the U.S. Army to supply the military with hundreds of tents that use flexible solar cells to provide electric power.
The collapsible battery charger, which fits in a pocket, is another way to maintain portable power for computers and other electronic gear carried by soldiers, said Iowa Thin Film's chief operating officer, Michael Coon.
The charger will retail for about $150.
It can be ordered from Iowa Thin Film's Web site, www.powerfilmsolar.com, and some military gear sites, Coon said.
It is expected to be available from outdoor retailers by end of the year, he added.
A lot of equipment carried by U.S. troops in the Middle East runs on AA batteries, and the 3.4-ounce solar charger is a convenient way to maintain a supply of usable batteries, Coon said.
The chargers are designed to perform for three to five years in a rugged environment, Coon said.
One will fully charge two batteries in about four hours in full sun, the company said.
"I've bought some personally and sent them to people I know in the military
overseas," Coon said.
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