We've been using solar-powered calculators since the 1970s. Why can't the same general idea drive gadgets like tablet computers?
Ubiquitous Energy says it can.
The Cambridge, Mass. company is developing a coating that when deposited on the screens of tablets and electronic readers would convert sunlight into energy for the devices, MIT Technology Review reports.
The same layers of organic material could also turn the windows of buildings into photovoltaic generators - a concept on which other companies are also working.
Ubiquitous' film works by tapping only invisible portions of the light spectrum - ultraviolet and infrared. It allows the visible wavelengths through - otherwise your tablet could go dark. And since most tablet users are tablet addicts, just think of the panic that would cause.
"There are other types of see-through solar cells, but many of them still harvest some light in the visible range and therefore don't have the transparency potential of an approach that ignores visible light," MIT writes.
The company is still in the research and development stage. It has not yet achieved high enough levels of energy efficiency or transparency. A 2011 paper reported that the company's technology was converting less than 2 percent of light into energy and providing 70 percent transparency. Ubiquitous is targeting a conversion rate of over 10 percent.
My calculator has a slim panel of solar cells. No fancy screen coating in sight. I assume a tablet - or to point to my own archaic technology, a laptop - is too power hungry for the average photovoltaic strip? For now, I'll thank the sun for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I look forward to the day that it smiles upon web browsing.