Gadgets from Apple and Samsung could be going solar.
A report by Digitimes showed that both companies have been looking into solar technologies to power future devices. They have been heavily focusing on organic photovoltaic cells, a technology that generates a lower sunlight-to-electricity ratio than large rooftop panels, but can be fit into small gadgets.
Samsung currently uses solar power in some of its products, including two phones released in 2009, the “Blue Earth” and “Crest Solar” models. Solar panels have been installed on the back of these phones that can quickly charge the phone by using sunlight. Earlier this year, Samsung came out with the Android-powered Replenish model which sports an optional rear cover with a solar cell. Next month, Samsung plans to introduce a 10 inch Netbook with a solar panel on the cover.
Apple already has a number of patent applications dealing with solar power:
• Apple applied for a patent in 2006 which described a way to place solar panels underneath a device’s semitransparent display, as well as the backside of it.
• In 2008, the company applied for two patents. The first, dealt with power management circuitry and solar cells to keep the device operating with sufficient voltage when running off solar cells. The second patent sought to combine a solar panel with a display that would cover touch panels to increase the surface area for solar cells.
• In 2009, Apple was granted a patent for a power system that will allow portable devices such as phones, tablets, or computers to utilize solar power.
As promising as it seems, the technology still needs time to develop and it could potentially be cost-prohibitive. The Digitimes report also revealed that both companies are looking at a few Taiwan-based solar firms to provide the technology, including Konarka which has created plastic flexible solar cells.
It is not known how well organic solar cells will hold up over the long run due to degradation – when their efficiency begins to decrease over time. Degradation needs to be taken into consideration because most companies offer warranties on their products.
Apple offers a year of warranty service on its phones, tablets and computers, which can be extended an extra one or two years. Samsung also offers a one-year warranty on the bulk of its products. Most people who purchase a gadget with solar technology will expect it to work properly while it’s under warranty.