Apple is a cutting edge technology company that turned the music industry on its head and reinvented both the smartphone and information tablet. When it comes to energy, Apple is looking at how to harness solar power for both large and small scale projects like powering next generation iPhones or the iPad's Smart Cover. Just like Apple was ahead of the curve by introducing in-cell technology into the iPhone 5 which Phil Schiller introduced as "integrated touch," we now know that Apple is working on this same principle except this time around it's for integrating special solar technology right into future touch displays. They've been working on this project since 2008. A new breakthrough in solar cell technology appears to be around the corner based on a new report revealed this week. The report pointed to a new material called graphene that will be able to greatly advance products such as night vision glasses, cameras and yes, eventually solar cells. It won't happen tomorrow, but you could be sure that Apple's advanced R&D teams will be considering this new material if it could bring their integrated solar panel technology to the iPhone quicker.
A new report published by MIT Technology Review on Friday stated that "Although the work only hints at possible solar applications, it shows that graphene could be considered a candidate for use in so-called third-generation solar cells. The term refers to yet-to-be-developed technologies that would overcome the physical limits of conventional solar cells and reach much higher efficiencies. Today's silicon cells have a theoretical efficiency limit of around 30 percent. Solar cells made of graphene might have a theoretical limit of over 60 percent."
It was reported in late January from Brussels, Belgium, that a graphene project led by Prof. Jari Kinaret of the Chalmers University of Technology in Goteborg, Sweden was one of two projects that won the EU technologies contest granting them 1 Billion dollars in funding.
Graphene is the thinnest known material, which conducts electricity far better than copper, is at least 100 times stronger than steel, and has unique optical properties. Important future uses include the development of fast, flexible and strong consumer electronics, bendable personal communication devices, lighter airplanes and artificial retinas.
It was also reported earlier this year that researchers at MIT had developed a new kind of photovoltaic cell based on sheets of flexible graphene coated with a layer of nanowires. The advance, they believe, could lead to low cost, transparent and flexible solar cells.
MIT Researchers stated that "graphene can be transferred onto various target substrates such as glass or plastic," which is exactly what Apple's patent filing has suggested. So the race is on to get this technology to market for consumer electronics such as Apple's iPhone and other iDevices.
The ability to extend the daily use of an iPhone or iPad without running out of power is why this technology is so important to future iDevices that will undoubtedly continue to add new power hungry features with each generation.