Apple Patents Solar Panels Integrated Into Flexible Touch Displays

Apple has a new patent that could pave the way for future solar-powered mobile devices, according to AppleInsider. The new intellectual property describes a method for embedding a solar array within a layer that includes touch sensors, and which can all be fit within a flexible display module, in order to save space in its ever-shrinking electronic devices.

The patent is a modified version of one granted to the company previously, which described the same thing but for touch-sensitive surfaces that didn’t include a display in their makeup. Instead, it described the system but for touch-sensitive surfaces only, giving it limited utility value in contemporary devices.

One version of the tech described in the patent would actually have the solar cells facing away from the touch sensor component (and/or display). This would work by routing light to the sensor through other means, including holes and ports that permit light to enter, and even fiber optic materials to reroute it from the front of the device within.

This is a key tech if Apple were ever genuinely interested in building a solar-powered iPhone or iPad. Given the output of solar-powered devices currently, and the immense power-requirements of mobile devices that feature high-quality displays, it seems very unlikely the company will introduce a fully solar-powered iOS gadget anytime soon, but this could also act as a supplemental tech that helps extend battery life rather than replace charging altogether.