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Apple reportedly considering solar-powered devices

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Apple and arch-rival/partner Samsung are both looking at creating consumer electronic devices powered by the sun, but don't expect to see them in the marketplace anytime soon.

According to a post on Asian technology website Digitimes, Taiwan-based solar firms are being considered as part of the supply chain for solar-powered devices from Apple, but these companies think that for the foreseeable future they'd be niche products. To get costs down, devices would need a standard-sized solar cell that could be mass-produced and extremely light.

A number of solar cell manufacturers are looking at organic photovoltaic cells, which have a fairly low conversion efficiency, light weight, and low production cost. Only about 5 to 8 percent of the light energy falling on these cells is converted to power, meaning that the solar cells either have to get more efficient or be sized larger. The latter option is contrary to contemporary electronics design, and it's unlikely that consumers would want to move to larger devices.

One technology that's being considered is the solar cell on paper invented at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These organic photovoltaic cells are extremely light, but at present a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate is being used by most manufacturers due to poor yields for the paper cells.

Still, it's good to see that our favorite manufacturer is looking into solar-powered devices. I look forward to the day when I can charge up a MacBook Air simply by working outside or under a bright light.

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