Apple and Samsung plan solar panels for smartphones, tablets

27 Jul 2011

Apple may soon look at putting solar panels on future iPhone and iPad devices. Reports from Taiwan, where Apple and Samsung have their smartphones assembled, say solar panel firms claim Apple and Samsung are evaluating components.

According to Taiwanese semiconductor industry newspaper DigiTimes, don’t expect new models like the iPhone 5 to sport this capability any time soon.

Niche solar panel manufacturers claim they will need longer to develop their products.

Samsung has in the past introduced solar panel technology on devices like its Blue Earth smartphone and has solar panels included in a number of its notebook computers.

Solar-powered consumer devices are expected to become mainstream within the next five years but the key will be producing paper-thin panels in volume cost efficiently.

While major manufacturers like US firms Solarmer and Plextronics, UK-based Konarka and Japan-based Mitsubishi Chemical are developing such technologies, in Ireland a local firm, SolarPrint, has just completed a funding round that will enable it to manufacture the first commercial printable solar panels.

“We have made breakthroughs in design and manufacturing processes that will allow us to be one of the first companies globally to launch commercial DSSC (dye sensitised solar cells) products,” said Dr Mazhar Bari, CEO and co-founder of SolarPrint.

DSSC mimics photosynthesis and can harness ambient or diffuse light regardless of the angle.

Following the successful commissioning of its pilot production facility in late 2010, the company’s indoor energy-harvesting devices have been tested by more than 15 multinationals active in the wireless sensor sector.

“Indoors, SolarPrint’s technology outperforms every other form of energy-harvesting device enabling the powering and rollout of wireless sensor networks for building energy management systems,” says Bari.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years