Apple eyes another patent for solar-powered iPhone

Company files a patent application for a double-duty touch screen/solar panel that could be used for iPhones and iPods.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office published a patent application from Apple today for solar-paneled technology designed for devices with small screens, such as iPhones or iPods.

This "integrated touch sensor and solar assembly" would involve integrating social cells into a touch screen by using electrodes that can pull double duty as a solar cell and a touch sensor. Apple envisions this technology for handheld devices, like "a media player or phone," according to the patent application. In addition to images of different size iPods, the patent application also comes with an image of a screen that's sized for an iPad.

If done, iPhone and iPod owners could use solar power to charge their devices. It's not the first time Apple has pursued solar technology. The Cupertino, Calif., company has applied for four other solar-power-related patents in the last several years.

Though this kind of tech seems like a good alternative to plugging in your smartphone, don't expect it to be a reality soon. After all, patent applications don't necessarily mean Apple will make a go of this technology.

And, despite rapid growth the last several years -- even Apple has built its own solar arrays -- solar still faces challenges, especially after the very public downfall of solar company Solyndra in 2011. Once seen as a promising investment in American clean energy, the company went bankrupt, along with several other U.S.-based solar companies.

Clarification, February 7 at 12:43 p.m. PT: The language describing the solar industry was changed and information on Apple's solar arrays was added.

 

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