Still, many innovations seem promising. So, what are the technologies the Navy has adopted, and how can you get your hands on them? To be sure, thus far the technologies aren't exactly home appliances, and it may take a while for these military-grade devices to evolve into things consumers would actually want to buy and use. But here's our overview—a look at a few of the inventions that could make a difference.
What: A generator that weighs 2.6 pounds and can deliver 320 watts of output using flexible fold-up solar panels. Powers anything from radios to computers to lights to water purification systems.
Where: Used by India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan; 1500 systems in theater.
Why: SPACES are so lightweight and portable that India Company, 3/5, can take them anywhere to recharge radio batteries and power equipment. While in the mid-'90s a company could carry only nine radios, today it can carry 224 and save 700 pounds in battery weight. Platoons used to need a battery resupply every two to three days, but with SPACES they can be in the field two to three weeks before needing a resupply mission. "We let marines do what they were sent there to do, which is fight and engage and rebuild and not guard resupply missions," Mabus says.
Price: $5,000 to $10,000 for one kit. Discounts for larger quantities. Customized kits available. They are built to military specifications, but Iris Technology says these are also ideal for first responders, law enforcement agencies, and NGOs, especially when they need power in remote locations or in disaster areas.
How you can get your hands on one: Contact Iris Technology directly at 866-240-9540 or check out its website at www.iristechnology.com.
LED light bulbs from Techshot Lighting, LLC
What: An LED light bulb so strong you can drive a truck over it. And they last for 50,000 hours (or roughly six years if you run them 24 hours a day).
Other details: At the flip of a switch, the light goes from white to "blackout condition," in which the light output drops from nine watts to three watts and a light frequency that produces a blue color. This option significantly reduces the enemy's ability to detect the light source. Whereas with traditional compact fluorescent bulbs, marines had to wrap each bulb in Mylar for protection, these bulbs are so sturdy marines can roll them up in their tents and pack them in their backpacks—all while saving valuable time. Plus they use significantly less power than their fluorescent predecessors.
How you can get your hands on one: They're built solely for the military. But enjoy the fact that the Navy is saving your tax dollars by buying these bulbs.
What: The navy flew an F/A-18 Hornet at 1.7 times the speed of sound on a blend of 50 percent standard aviation fuel and 50 percent camelina biofuel on Earth Day of last year. "The plane didn't know the difference," Mabus says.
The biofuel must have equal or higher performance to current aviation gases, create lifetime greenhouse gas emissions equal to or less than petroleum, and be compatible with traditional petroleum products and existing aircraft technology. Beyond that, Hicks says the Navy is interested that the "domestic, homegrown" fuels are on the right side of issues related to food security, water, and land use.
How much and when: If the Navy can work with other groups to create the infrastructure and demand for 8 million barrels of affordable biofuel, Hicks says then the entire commercial airline industry could conceivably have access to cost-effective biofuels by 2020.
Images: Courtesy of the U.S. Navy