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Solar Powered MacBooks May be in our Future

This is definitely the year of the environment at Apple.Beyond their initial push,Apple's patents began to reflect their new position. On January 14, we presented Apple's Smart-Home Energy Management Dashboard System and then a week later we reported that Apple Thinks Green Again with Solar Cell Panels for Media Players. Well, Apple is at it again - and this time they're focusing on a light harness that could be an accessory that magnetically attaches to the backside of a future Macbook or could be engineered right into the Macbook using a translucent component. This way when you're outside enjoying the sun at a park or by your tent side, you'll be able to draw power from the sun and cut down on draining your battery. Apple is also considering using solar cells. It may look a bit goofy in the patent, but we all know that the finished product will be slick: That's for sure!


Schematic Overview of a Notebook with a Light Harness Component


Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a simplified schematic diagram of an electronic device 100 in accordance with some embodiments of the invention.


The most important aspects of FIG. 1 in context with this patent is the light harness noted as illustration point 114 which may be provided to capture light external to a notebook to channel the light for illuminating output component 112.


Also noteworthy is a twist to the power supply 106 noted above being that beyond the normal use of batteries, a future notebook may also be configured to generate power from a natural source (e.g., solar power using solar cells).


About the MacBook Reflector


Apple's patent FIGS. 5A is a conceptual MacBook that may include a reflector 550, at least a portion of which may be coupled to device 500 adjacent or to the rear of display screen 520. Reflector 550 may be used to reflect light when in a closed position. A portion of the reflector may adhere, snap, or be held magnetically to the notebook such that the reflector may be positioned along the rear of the display screen in a closed position.



Apple's patent FIGS. 5B to 5D illustrate the notebook with the reflector in an open position. The Reflector may be coupled to the base of display screen 520 or to a hinge assembly or any other portion of the notebook such that the reflector may be opened for use by rotating a portion of the reflector using the hinge assembly away from the display screen and such that the reflector may be closed by rotating the portion of the reflector 550 using the hinge assembly towards the display screen.


When exposed to an external light source, such as the sun (575), the reflector may collect light emitted by the sun's ray 506 and redirect the ray or rays toward display screen 520. Portion 551 of reflector 550 may be released to rotate away from the display screen using any suitable means, such as by pressing a button or using a wrist flick motion similar to that used to open a cellular telephone.


Apple's patent FIG. 5C below shows a side view of the notebook with the reflector in a closed position. The reflector may include a silver or any other suitable reflective material for the lining on face 550a in the rear to enhance the reflection of light by the reflector. The reflector may also lower the power consumption of the notebook by eliminating the need for an internal light source (530) to draw on the battery power of the notebook to illuminate the display.


The reflector, by the way, could include any suitable shape to collect and reflect the emitted light. For example, the reflector could curved as shown, or the reflector plate 550 could be flat, angular (e.g., forming a "V" shape), elliptical, or any other suitable shape.


4 - 5c 5d 

As an example of usage, a notebook owner may decide to go outside to use their notebook. The sunlight may not be sufficient to power the notebook's display initially and so the user could rotate the notebook's reflector downward into an open position to collect more sun rays to power or illuminate the display.


MacBook with Back Sided Translucent Surface


Apple's patent FIG. 6A shows a side view of a notebook with a translucent surface in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. Translucent surface 740 may include any suitable material and may be of any suitable shape for permitting light from an external light source. For example, the sun may emit rays that may contact the translucent surface. The translucent surface could allow sun rays to pass through the translucent surface and contact rear face of the notebook's display to illuminate display. For the sake of clarity and to help you mentally view this, think of a translucent frosted window glass as opposed to it being transparent.


5 -7A 7B 

In some embodiments, rather than positioning translucent surface 740 behind display screen 720, the display itself may be translucent thereby allowing it to use ambient light as long as the back of the display is facing the ambient light source.


Apple's patent FIG. 6B shows a side view of an alternative view of a notebook with the reflector 750 positioned between translucent surface 740 and display screen 720 in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. If there isn't sufficient ambient light to illuminate the display screen, then the user may replace reflector 750 between display screen 720 and translucent surface 740.


Apple's patent FIGS. 7A and 7B shown below illustrate a side view of a notebook which may be similar to the one shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B above, but with a translucent surface repositioned with respect to a reflector in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. Reflector 850 could be detachable from the notebook or otherwise repositionable with respect to screen 820.


6 - FIGS 6A 6B 

Apple's patent FIG. 7B shows a side view of the notebook with reflector 850 in an open position. It should be noted that the patents states that "the translucent surface may also serve to protect the rear face of the display screen from damage."


Apple's patent FIG. 3A shown below illustrates a perspective view of a light harness (e.g., a manifold) in accordance with some embodiments of the invention.



Apple credits Peter Mahowald as the sole inventor of patent application 20100073791, originally filed in Q3 2008.


Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or grant should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number(s) noted in this report into thissearch engine.

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Thomas Carlson

I had a PowerBook 1400 back in the late '90s for which I bought a solar panel that slid into the cover. It could be used separately too as it had suction cups to attach it to an airplane window, for instance, and a long cable that would enable one to be in the shade and the panel in the sun.

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