The future is bright for solar-powered smartphones, tablets

It's probably not a good idea to leave a smartphone out in the sun. But that may change if the phone was, say, solar-powered!
Written by Tuan Nguyen, Contributor

It's probably not a good idea to leave a smartphone out in the sun. But that may change if the phone was, say, solar-powered!

Wysips, a french-based tech firm, believes such a phone may arrive in the not-so-distant future, partly because the company has developed a transparent coating for LED screens that soaks up energy from a light source and converts it into usable electricity. A smartphone endowed with the technology can be recharged in about six hours if left in direct sunlight. And even if you still don't think it would be very practical to leave a phone baking in UV rays or next to a window, the phones can also be recharged using indoor lighting, a slower process that will obviously require more patience.

Even so, the advantages of a solar powered smartphone can be, you might say, illuminating. Instead of having to hunt for an outlet and then feeling tethered to a specific spot, users would able to charge the phone simply by letting it sit on a desk or counter provided that the room is sufficiently well lit as most offices. This also opens the door to the integration of more powerful processors since most smartphones designs are currently designed to get users through the day by conserving power.

The breakthrough technology that makes all this possible relies on photovoltaic cells, which can be thought of as miniaturized solar cells. Ultra-thin strips of the cells are applied on the surface of a display screen followed by a separate layer of cylindrical lenticular lenses that sits right on top. This method not only allows solar energy to be collected by the cells, but also lets back-lighting from the LED display to pass through to the user's eyes without any distortion.

However, don't plan on ditching your charger just yet. The technology still needs to be refined a bit before manufacturers like Apple can feel confident enough to integrate it into smartphones, tablets and electronic readers. The company hopes to build a prototype by next year that provides about a half hour of talk time after one hour of charging.

Check out this video from Laptop Magazine that showcases an early version of the technology:

Photo: Wysips

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