NATICK, Mass. -- The Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center's Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, or EMSD, has developed a new lighting technology that provides better illumination while using less energy than fluorescent tube lighting.

Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Southern Cross Printed Electronics, Australia, and its U.S. representative BAM International, EMSD developed the Flexible Light Emitting Diode, or LED, Lighting System, which is also called MFLEX. The MFLEX system is part of EMSD's ongoing commitment to improving energy efficiency and reducing the logistical footprint of expeditionary base camps.

"Although there are several alternative LED lighting solutions available to the warfighter, all of which provide the benefit of saving energy, which ultimately translates into fewer or smaller supply convoys, the major benefits of these lights are reflected in three measures: 1) the amount of time necessary to setup and takedown a tent, 2) the transportation weight and volume, and 3) the quality of the lighting," said Melvin Jee, leader of the Soldier Center's EMSD's Expeditionary Command Platforms Branch.

The Flexible LED Lighting System will replace the fluorescent tube lighting commonly used in the field. The system can be used in virtually any size tent, provides more illumination, and greatly reduces shadow area when compared to fluorescent tube lighting.

"The flexible LED lights provide fairly even illumination, virtually eliminating heavy shadow areas, making the environment more comfortable for the warfighter by reducing fatigue due to eye strain," said Jee.

By improving illumination and reducing the presence of shadows inside the tent, the system helps facilitate command and control functions. Soldiers often carry out various aspects of mission planning while in tents, including looking at maps and other information, and the improved illumination and reduction of shadows may help them better perform such tasks.

Moreover, the system is more compact and weighs significantly less than fluorescent tube lighting. The Flexible LED Lighting System fits into a backpack-sized bag. This one small bag replaces up to four transit cases needed to light a single tent with fluorescent lighting. The cases weigh between 40 to 50 pounds each, compared with the backpack-sized bag needed for LED lighting, which weighs only 10 pounds.

The backpack-size bag contains 12 meters of flexible LED lighting, complete with cables and hangers. The bag also contains the power supply and control circuitry, which allows the lights to be dimmed and/or switched from white light to blue/green blackout light.

Warfighters do not require a specific Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, to install and operate the lighting system. The LED system does not have to be taken down when moving to a new location, increasing ease of mobility and reducing setup and tear-down times.

The system is being used by the 82nd Airborne Division. The Soldier Center has partnered extensively with the 82nd Airborne to gain insights into improving and developing appropriate tools, techniques, products and technologies for the warfighter. The division's feedback/input helped to shape the development of the Flexible Light Emitting Diode Lighting System.

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The U.S. Army Soldier Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.