Mobile
Self-Charging Solar Cell Phone Screens

Mobiles have become a part of our daily life as they are one of the major sources of communication. With the constant use, their battery life usually shrinks. Developing mobile batteries which can give longer life to the Smartphone’s is a need of the hour. Many efforts are being carried out in order to provide long life to the batteries or to find out an alternate to charge up the mobiles without using the conventional way of plugging in.

With this aim, The SunPartner Group, a start-up company in Aix-en-Provence, France, invented a low-cost transparent panel that can put solar cells on the phones. The idea is to use solar energy to charge up the mobile. The creation is now being tested with a number of manufacturers and is expected to be built into mobile devices somewhere around next year.

Earlier, several cell phone manufacturers tried to put solar cells on the back of mobile phones. Mobiles like Samsung crest and the sharp solar hybrid were developed with this feature. But people were hesitant to put their mobiles face down on the table, as they can miss alerts and also were worried about screen scratches. Due to these issues, solar cells on the back of the cell phones never became popular.

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Putting solar cells on mobile phone front is tough, since mobiles today have virtual based display. Ubiquitous Energy start-up, a spin off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working on a technique that makes solar cells transparent by utilizing materials that can absorb infrared and ultraviolet light making visible light pass through them.

Similar approaches are being practiced at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), while the researchers at the University of Cambridge are weaving solar cells into organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays. These displays can capture light leaked from the edges of the OLED elements and also captures the light from outside the phone.

However, these technologies still need to be enhanced. Sunpartner believes that a lower tech approach will catch the attention of the user and will get to the mass market in no time. The company uses a stripe of standard thin-film solar cells and adds a layer of micro lenses that spreads the picture coming from the screen to make the opaque stripes disappear as well as to focus the rays coming in from the sun.

Though, this technology doesn’t replace the wall charger completely, it does extend the mobiles battery life about 20 percent in normal use. Mobile device users can still plug their phone to conventional chargers. This technique can sustain the phone’s modest power drain in the normal daylight.

The present prototypes of the company are 82 percent transparent and the future versions are being developed with an aim to hit 90 percent transparency. The company has about 30 patents on its technology and is currently working with three mobile device manufacturers to develop prototypes, Nokia being one of them reportedly.

The mobile models integrating the technology are expected to be on market in early 2014.

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