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Coming soon: Solar-powered displays for your smartphones

Coming soon: Solar-powered displays

From receiving calls to surfing on the web, smartphones today are capable of doing multiple things at a lightning fast speed. While every aspect of a mobile phone has come a long way, one thing remains constant – poor battery life.


One solution is solar power to charge the battery in the day. Samsung did it in 2009 with the E1107, which used the solar power to charge its battery when needed. But the phone did not do well as the solar panel was on the back. Aside from being impractical, this also meant that the phone had to be kept face-down, sometimes resulting in damage.


But a new implementation of solar panels could change things once again for those hoping for alternative and eco-friendly ways to charge their phone. IEEE Spectrum reports about a French startup, SunPartner, founded by optician Joel Gilbert and businessman Ludovic Deblois, which has a solution to the solar problem. SunPartner’s methods involve putting a solar panel on the screen of the phone, thus allowing users to use their phones in the normal manner while still being able to recharge the phone to a certain extent.


A pictorial representation of the Solar-powered displays technology



SunPartner uses stripes of thin-film solar cells on the screen and a layer of tiny lenses is added on top so that the image displayed by the screen is still visible despite the solar cells. The photovoltaic cells capture the light, while the viewer can still see the display on the phone. This method currently adds about 20 percent to your phone’s battery life. The company has stated that these solar stripes are currently 82 percent transparent, but they are working on making them 90 percent transparent.


SunPartner also said that using these solar panels in manufacturing smartphones will add $2.30 to the cost. The price seems low enough, but the efficacy of this method leaves much to be desired. A $2.30 outlay for around 20 percent extra battery life may seem too much for OEMs, but this tech also allows the battery to remain topped up when the phone is not being used in normal daylight.


The report does not mention whether the panel affects picture quality of the display. In any case, now that there is some foundational work done on this subject, it won’t be long before we hear about a proper working solar-powered display. SunPartner is currently working with three manufacturers — Nokia is said to be one of them — to develop prototypes and claims the first phones with the new technology will be in markets in 2014.


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