Apple patents solar panels integrated into flexible multitouch displays

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a modified version of a property covering solar panel integration in portable devices, widening the invention’s reach to cover electronics with transparent multitouch screens like the iPhone,” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider.

“With Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,730,179 for an ‘Integrated touch sensor and solar assembly,’ the company offers an alternate take on an hybrid solar system that can be disposed beneath a large touch panel and even flexible displays,” Campbell reports. “The basic design uses a transparent double-sided ITO (DITO) substrate overlaid atop a solar panel cell array, which then translates light energy into electricity that can be stored in the onboard battery. A modification to the original property includes an arrangement in which a flexible single-sided ITO (SITO) substrate can be employed over a similarly flexible polymer solar cell panel.”

“Unlike the previous version of the invention, the solar panel may be mounted face-down in the stack-up, meaning it would be facing away from the user and back into the device. Due to this change, in some embodiments, the solar panel cannot act in an “optical sensing mode” where the array itself could be used instead of, or in concert with, the capacitive touch layer,” Campbell reports. “When facing away from the touch sensor array, the solar panel must have light piped into the device via light channels.”

More info and Apple’s patent application illustrations, in the full article here.


  1. It’s been my experience with solar panels (even the high efficiency types) that the amount of energy obtained via indoor lighting is quite small. Maybe enough to support a micro-power calculator but no where near enough to make a significant dent in battery life of a cell phone. Outdoors in sunlight it’s a different story. I’m skeptical that we’ll see this any time soon.

    1. What’s a ‘high efficiency’ type? Who came up with that laughable term? IMHO the energy conversion efficiency of solar panels remains primitive. As usual, I have to wonder if the fossil fuel industry bought up the actually useful patents and buried them to keep us all oil addicted. money money money

        1. 30% IS an improvement. That’s the energy conversion rate of photosynthesis. But I think we can do better.

          And yes. Internal combustion is primitive. It’s another technology where the efficiency may well be kept artificially low. That’s certainly the urban legend. It will be great when we escape fossil fuels and move on the sustainable energy. Meanwhile: money money money

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.