Apple wins a Patent for Future iPhone and Apple Watch devices including a new Environmental Sensing Chip that removes Contamination
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a granted patent for Apple today that relates to a newly developed Environmental Sensing Chip that includes sensors that are specifically designed to remove organic contamination inside iPhone and Apple Watch devices by use of ozone oxidation.
Removal of Organic Contamination in iPhone & Apple Watch Devices
Today, Apple was granted a patent titled “Removal of organic contamination by ozone oxidation for environmental sensor integration.” The patent relates primarily to environmental sensors for the iPhone and Apple Watch.
Apple’s granted patent covers systems and methods that will decompose organic contaminants inside product housing or near sensor packaging, in order to restore the clean environment needed for accurate readings of the integrated environmental sensors.
In some implementations, the subject technology decomposes the organic contaminants by using ultraviolet (UV) light to illuminate the contaminants. The disclosed approach can be applied to a number of device platforms, including mobile communication devices such as smartphones and/or smartwatches or other wearable devices hosting environmental sensors. The environmental sensors can include miniature gas sensors such as sensors for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone (O.sub.3), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO.sub.2), carbon monoxide (CO) and other environmental gases.
A miniature sensor is understood to have dimensions smaller than a few millimeters and can be readily integrated into a smartphone or a smartwatch. The environmental sensors may also include relative humidity (RH) sensors and waterproof pressure sensors.
The disclosed solution can target the self-cleaning of both the interior surface of the device housing or mesh (e.g., aluminum, stainless steel and the waterproof, air-permeable membranes made of materials such as expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) for individual sensors.
In some implementations, the process of organic decomposition is based on ozone oxidation of organic compound molecules. The ozone gas can be generated by an ozone source, such as a UV light-emitting diode (LED) or other UV sources.
In some implementations, the UV LED can be packaged behind the waterproof, air-permeable membrane inside the sensor package, as explained herein. In other implementations, the port geometry can be optimized in order to reduce stray light leakage outside the housing, for example, by using light traps or light baffles.
In one or more aspects of the subject technology, a portable communication device includes an apparatus for environmental sensing. The apparatus includes a housing, one or more environmental sensors and an ozone source. The housing includes one or more ports for allowing air flow between the surrounding environment and a cavity of the housing. The environmental sensors are coupled to the housing and can sense an environmental agent included in the air flow. The ozone source can generate ozone gas within the cavity of the housing to decompose unwanted organic compounds inside the port.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 below is a high-level diagram illustrating examples of portable communication devices with environmental sensing capability.
The portable communication device of the subject technology (e.g., the smartphone 110 or the smartwatch 120) includes an environmental-sensing chip #130 that can communicate with other components of the portable communication device such as a central processor and memory of the portable communication device. The chip may include a number of environmental sensors 132 (e.g., patches 132-1, 132-2 . . . 132-N) and a processing circuit 134. Chip 130 can be a semiconductor chip such as a silicon chip or a chip made of other semiconductor materials.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 above is a diagram illustrating an example apparatus having an ozone (O.sub.3) source for removal of organic contamination.
Apple’s patent FIG. 3 above is a diagram illustrating an example apparatus having a waterproof membrane and an ozone source for removal of organic contamination.
Apple’s patent FIG. 4 above is a diagram illustrating an example apparatus having an ozone source packaged with the environmental sensor for removal of organic contamination.
For more details, review Apple’s granted patent 11,351,285.