Apple Developing Solar Panels for Mobile Devices


In February, Apple patented solar panel technology to be integrated for mobile devices, but recently, the major computer distributer has furthered their development to make the solar panel technology for mobile devices more flexible and touch sensitive. The company is offering a hybrid solar system that can be placed underneath a large touch panel.

The system involves one or more flexible solar panels with one or more touch sensors stacked together like a chassis. The basic design utilizes a transparent double-sided ITO substrate superimposed atop of a solar panel cell. This solar panel cell is capable of translating light energy into usable energy that can be stored into the device’s battery. Other designs allow for flexible solar panel cells which can more easily capture light from different angles.

Apple released another design where the cell faces away from the user and in towards the device. In this arrangement, the cell can not operate in a optimal light sensing mode. When facing away from the user, light must be shown in through light channels. This design would be used if having the cell face up proves to emit too much heat for the touch sensor.  The utilization of fiber optics in this form of the technology has been included to improve the passage of light into the rear facing sensor. Fiber optics can bend light from the front of the device, into the housing, and finally onto the solar panel cell. Apple is also looking to incorporate a reflective mirror in their design to maximize energy consumption. The back surface of the touch sensitive sensor would reflect light towards the solar cell, maximizing the amount of light energy absorbed.

Apple has run into some issues developing solar panels for mobile devices. They are “having difficulty” fitting a suitable solar power cell into the larger version of the next generation of iPhones. Also, the incorporation of this technology could make the iPhones, iPads, and iPods thicker. Which is opposed to the demand of consumers who want thinner devices. Also, the iPhone and other mobile devices are-due to customer demand-making their phones with bigger screens which use up more energy.

Apple’s development of solar panels for mobile devices was first filed by Michael Nathan Rosenblatt, Gordon Cameron, Cameron Frazier, Steven Porter Hotelling, Benjamin Lyon, and John Benjamin Roslin in 2008. Tech analysts believe that a completely solar energy powered iPhone or iPad won’t be hitting the shelves soon. More likely, devices that are supplemented by solar energy will be introduced. Then, as the technology becomes more routine and improved, it could turn into the primary source for energy for Apple devices.

Currently, the United States is the third largest solar power industry behind China and Japan. The value of the solar power industry is $100 billion, and Apple is not the only one showing interest in the business. Google and Berkshire Hathaway are beginning their forays into the perpetual renewable resource. According to environmental scientists at the University of Washington, the total area of solar panels needed to power the whole world is somewhere around 1,00,000 kilometers.

By Andres Loubriel

USA Today
Apple Insider

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