Apple Researching Integration of Solar Panels in Flexible Touchscreen Displays

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today granted a new Apple patent describing the integration of a solar panel into a mobile touchscreen device with a flexible display, reports AppleInsider.

solar-touchscreen-patent
The newly granted patent is a variation on patent No. 8,730,179, which primarily applies to display-less, touch-capable devices, limiting its functionality in contemporary mobile devices. Both patent applications were filed on September 30, 2008, but the expanded version granted today has taken more time to work its way through the approval process.

Today's patent describes a method of stacking solar cells between touch sensor layers within a display matrix to create a compact solar charging system that stores energy in the device's battery. It applies to both glass-covered and flexible plastic displays.

Integrated touch sensor and solar panel stack-up configurations that may be used on portable devices, particularly handheld portable devices such as a media player or phone are disclosed. The solar cell stack-up configurations may include one or more touch sensor layers and one or more solar cell layers. By integrating both the touch sensors and the solar cell layers into the same stack-up, surface area on the portable device may be conserved.

Given the limited power made available through solar charging and the power consumption requirements of mobile devices, this technology likely won't be the main source of power in a device. It could, however, serve as a backup power source or may pave the way for advancements that could increase the efficiency of the system as mobile devices and solar technology improve.

Apple has reportedly explored a number of methods, including solar for charging its rumored iWatch. Other possible methods have included wireless induction charging and kinetic charging that would capture energy imparted as the user's arm moves.

Tag: Patent

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Top Rated Comments

JaySoul Avatar
131 months ago
That would work well.

Keep it in my back pocket cos the sun shines out of my a--.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MacrumoursUser Avatar
131 months ago
I think it would be useful if you are outside all the time or you don't wear a long sleeve shirt when you wear a watch or leave your phone on the table when you aren't using it. Unless it can charge using light from florescent lights, I don't see it happening soon.

Imagine you are in the middle of the woods, lost and your iPhone is dead. If this was to happen you could just leave it in the sun for few hours and you would be able to call 911 and your mommy.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
codewrangler Avatar
131 months ago
Good Idea

Makes sense...just another way to lengthen the battery usage. If it's feasible to do, they should do it. Every drop of electricity you can save/replace, means longer iPhone usage without plugging into a power outlet.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HobeSoundDarryl Avatar
131 months ago
As a renewable energies student, I really think that it would have better efficiency if the solar cells were incorporated in the bezels. Although the surface area is smaller, there are not two layers of glass between the sun and the actual cell. The bezel could in fact be a solar cell which would allow more photons to be converted in electric energy.
And if you think about it being in one's pocket when not in use, how about making the back & sides the solar collecting panels? When out of pocket and in use, wouldn't those be more exposed? Both?

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All Day Battery would be a welcome addition ...

The (IMO) over-focus on "thin" fights that very good idea. We can get all-day battery now by putting our iPhone in a battery case. It makes it only a little thicker and wastes some "thin" by having case walls on case walls. Wouldn't it be nice to quit the race toward "thinner" and instead deliver the battery power of iPhone + battery case within an iPhone? When is thin, thin enough?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thirumalkumaran Avatar
131 months ago
Samsung

Samsung..

Ready
3
2
1
...
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eagle33199 Avatar
131 months ago
That explains something I recently heard from a coworker. He has a friend who works at 3M and was recently over at one of their plants in China... Apparently, they are working with Apple on producing some new display technology for the iPhone 6 that includes some method of "using ambient light to help backlight the display" - a phrase that had me confused until now. Solar panels that feed directly into the display backlight would help take some pressure off the battery, and you know those panels will be exposed when the phone is actually in use. He also said September for the launch.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)