Photo via Discovery News; Credit Dawn Bonnell
Embedded solar cells have become all the rage in gadgets from cell phones to even netbooks. However, it usually means having the gadget lay face down in the sun for as long as an hour to get a minimal amount of charge. You can't really use it while it's charging, and the idea of leaving an expensive electronic device in the sun is not appealing. But scientists have made a breakthrough that could lead us towards solar powered touchscreen devices, improving the way gadgets absorb ambient energy. According to Discovery News, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have created a circuit that can power itself via sunlight - a world's first.
"This as the potential to create a new generation of optical and electronic devices," said Dawn Bonnell, a scientist from the University of Pennsylvania who co-authored a recent ACS Nano paper describing the research. "The touchscreen of your computer could act as both the electrical charger and the computer chip."
They feel it could eventually power a new line of consumer devices like touchscreen phones or perhaps even e-readers, or be used for far more high tech applications like powering tiny robotic devices or as artificial neural networks that could model the brain.
While there's a huge range of applications, it will be several years at least before we see this technology implemented into consumer devices. For now, the scientists can only get a tiny amount of electricity out of their photovoltaic circuits, though they're figuring out quickly how to increase that amount enough to be able to run hand-held gadgets.
More can be found at Discovery News.