Apple has been granted a new patent for a solar-powered touchscreen panel that may very well feature in a future iPhone.
According to a freshly published filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the tech titan is working on an ‘integrated touch sensor and solar assembly’ for portable devices such as ‘a media player or phone’ that will enable the device to be charged using the same surface used to control it.
The filing states: “The integrated touch sensor array and solar cell stack-ups may include electrodes that are used both for collecting solar energy and for sensing on a touch sensor array. By integrating both the touch sensors and the solar cell layers into the same stack-up, surface area on the portable device may be conserved.”
In layman’s terms, the technology will convert your standard capacitive touchscreen into a mini solar panel that will capture the sun’s energy on the same surface area.
A solar-powered iPhone – and iPod and iPads, too – will be surely welcomed by green technology evangelists. It’ll also challenge a growing perception that Apple is no longer an innovative company.
The patent further states that in addition to being used for capacitive sensing, “the integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations may also be used for optical sensing,” which means touch inputs can be registered without direct contact on the screen, allowing a variety of objects to serve as an input devices, including a stylus.
This adds weight to rumours that Apple is planning a five-inch smartphone dubbed ‘iPhone Math’ to take on Samsung’s Galaxy Note range, which has been a massive commercial success in no small part due to the S-Pen stylus.
The precision control of an optical sensor would also be a boon for iPad users for creative purposes.
It’s unknown what stage of development the solar touch panel is at. Most patents never materialise into real products, but in this case, we sure hope that it does.
What do you think of the possibility of a solar-powered iPhone? Tell us in the comments section below.