In 2002, Dr. Larry Rome received a call from the Office of Naval Research explaining that Special Forces in Afghanistan were carrying over 20 lbs of batteries in addition to the 80 lbs already in their backpacks. They asked if there was a way to capture the troops’ locomotory movements and convert those movements into electricity which would recharge a small rechargeable battery and reduce carried weight.
Rome, a professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in muscle function and biomechanics, invented the Suspended Load Technology (SLT), in which the load can move up and down with respect to the person walking. Adding a generator, the SLT pack generated considerable electricity with normal movement — a 1,000-fold increase over previous attempts (20 Watts vs 20 milliwatts).
Rome filed patents and founded Lightning Packs in 2004. Rome’s team announced this discovery in the journal Science which received international acclaim. Rome noticed that all the subjects in the study preferred walking and running with the SLT pack rather than with normal packs. So he took out the generator and developed a non-electrical version of the SLT pack which eventually became HoverGlide. The pack reduced accelerative forces during walking and running 82-86% and reduced joint pain and metabolic rate. The study was published in the journal Nature in 2006. From athletes getting more out of their training to those with mobility issues have an easier time carrying a backpack while walking, HoverGlide’s focus is to reduce force on joints.
From 2006 to 2016, Lightning Packs received funding from the Office of Naval Research, U.S. Army, National Institutes of Health and U.S. Small Business Innovation Research for the development of the Electricity-Generating SLT pack. The Lightning Packs team delivering over 130 packs to the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army. In 2016, the team decided to focus again on what has become the ergonomic, non-electrical HoverGlide. Along the way, Lightning Packs has been awarded 5 US, 3 Canadian, 2 European and one Australian Patent.