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Solar News

Apple Sees a Future in Solar Electronics


In a patent application dated April 1, 2010, Apple revealed plans for an incredible new implementation of mobile solar technology - one that places a solar panel inside of the phone itself. According to the blog Patently Apple, Apple's vision of solar applications to its portable electronic devices "boils down to two major points":

Firstly we see that Apple envisions utilizing solar cell technology right across the board from iPod to iPad. Secondly and perhaps most intriguingly, we see Apple detailing how they'll be able to integrate cell panels beneath their multi-touch surface as opposed to it being applied to the top surface of their media players as previously thought.

Portable solar modules for charging cell phones are already on the market, but Apple has been looking at integrating solar technology for quite some time. Prior patent applications from Apple, including one for "solar cells on portable devices" from 2008 and another for "power management circuitry and solar cells" from January 2010 hinted at the installation of solar panels in Apple devices.

These previous patent applications showed that any of Apple's mobile products - from Pods to Phones - could be fitted with a transparent solar panel that would cover the device. A question about these implementations involved the placement of the cells - Would the solar cell have to belong on the back of a phone, where it might not ever see sunlight, or on the front, where it could distract from Apple's iconic design? This latest patent application addresses these concerns by putting the solar cell inside of the phone - directly under the touchscreen display.

Those whose phones are confined to a pocket all day might not see immediate benefits in this new technology, but for anyone who works or plays outside, this new technology could be incredibly useful. Obviously, somebody that found themselves stranded in the woods without a working phone would see the emergency application of this technology. Some people, though, are away from reliable power or communication all the time, either by way of working in the wilderness or living far from town. Implemented inside of a satellite phone, solar-powered touchscreens could bring 21st century communication technology to remote villages. Of course, everybody could find a use for a solar-powered cellphone while camping in the woods or enjoying a weekend-long festival. And finally, let's admit it: We've all had days when we simply forgot to charge our phones.

Apple's new patent showcases a groundbreaking and practical new way to integrate solar power with mobile devices. Although the full potential of this technology has yet to be seen, it's clear that Apple has been working on a viable solar power source for quite some time. Hopefully, the first generation of solar-powered mobile devices is just around the corner, but until then, there are plenty of solar battery chargers available today.