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Power Backpack

October 10, 2005

A new backpack could help save lives in emergencies.


Electricity from walking. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For soldiers in a war or rescue workers in a disaster, small electronics like cell phones, hand-held radios, night vision goggles and GPS receivers are critical. That’s why a new backpack, designed by University of Pennsylvania biologist Larry Rome, could be a lifesaver.

As you walk, the pack slides up and down on a fixed frame. That generates mechanical energy, which drives a generator that can be used to charge small batteries. Rome first developed it for soldiers in Afghanistan – and then the Asian tsunami hit.

LARRY ROME (University of Pennsylvania):
And communication was extremely difficult there, because everybody’s satellite phone was going dead because the batteries went dead.

That’s when he realized that with a few modifications the backpack could improve disaster relief efforts, too. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.