Powered through the Sun: Efficient Solar-Power iPad Covers in Development?

30 Oct

There is a certain ring to the idea of an effective solar powered iPad, even though environmental-based technologies aren’t traditionally viewed as vehicles for success. According to a recent report from MIT’s Technology Review, Alta Devices, a solar startup based in Calfiornia, plans to release an iPad charge-cover that will supposedly produce up to 10 watts of energy when exposed to the sun. Alta Devices CEO, Chris Norris, made a special note of their solar cell’s thinness, flexibility, and high power efficiency, indicating that the energy generated will be such that charging the tablet “through the wall” may eventually become unnecessary.

Norris showing the thinner, more flexible solar cell that may potentially be used in future iPad covers
(picture from Gigaom)

At present, a variety of solar-powered accessories designed specifically for the iPad already exist in the retail market. The critical responses to these products, however, do not seem to be entirely favorable, with issues such as unnecessary thickness, heavy weight, and low power efficiency being the commonly identified problems. A typical silicon solar cell used by these PV products, according to MIT Tech Review, converts less than 20% of the sun’s energy into electricity. Used on thin covers, it is said that the amount of convertible energy will be less than 10%.

Using what it claims is a superior, thinner, and more flexible solar cell, Alta Devices plans to make a difference in various markets, and not just the US military, where it currently provides its technology. The current obstacle that stands in the way, as of now, are the reportedly high cost of producing the solar cells aimed for retail leveled application. Norris reportedly aims to open more factories as a means to achieving this goal.

Given the amount time it would probably take to decrease the overall costs, whether and how Alta Devices will be able to create and commercialize solar powered iPad covers are unknown at this point. Should the application become viable, frequent outdoor travelers and even ordinary iPad users will certainly get a kick out of the extra convenience provided.

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