Batteries are about to get a boost from an unexpected source: the sun. That’s right, solar power. Not the heavy installations you’d see on a rooftop, but thin, flexible cells that can easily be integrated into the wing of an unmanned aerial vehicle, the back of a smartphone, or the roof of a car.
This new take on solar power solves an issue that has long plagued users and designers of digital and mobile devices: the need to constantly recharge or replace batteries. Brighter screens, more functions, and faster processors drain the life out of well-designed digital devices, while long-lasting batteries are far too heavy for wearables and unmanned flying vehicles.
Using solar power to increase battery life provides a new era for mobile power — freeing consumers from the hassle of constantly recharging their devices, allowing manufacturers to develop new and exciting applications, and saving significant amounts of energy as devices are taken off the grid.
Traditional solar power relies on silicon-based cells that convert sunlight to electricity and are typically seen on rooftops or giant arrays in the desert. Silicon-based photovoltaic cells do a reasonable job generating power, but are bulky and rigid, hardly suitable for use with mobile devices.
Thin-film solar technology in use today greatly reduces bulk, but those cells are relatively inefficient and difficult to integrate into other products.