Job posting hints Apple is investigating solar-powered mobile devices

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple is seeking an engineer with thin films experience as applied to semiconductor or solar manufacturing, suggesting the company is investigating viable alternative energy source for future mobile products like a smart watch.

Solar
Apple's large solar array at its Maiden, N.C. data center.


The post, discovered on the Jobs at Apple website, describes a position for the Mobile Devices group, with suitable candidates having experience with thin film deposition technology in either semiconductor processing or solar industries.

Looking into the Key Qualifications section of the listing, which was posted on Thursday and spotted Friday, it appears that the position will deal with the applications side of R&D, rather than the development phase. Applicants are asked to have experience in sputtering, vacuum evaporation, electroplating and other technologies commonly associated with disposing thin-films on circuitry.

While the word "solar" is mentioned twice in the listing, it may not necessarily mean that Apple is working to bring a solar-powered iPhone to market. Many advanced technologies require engineers to have multidisciplinary backgrounds, as these systems are intricately tied together.

Perhaps most interesting is a qualification that reads, "Knowledge of thin-films in the context of RF shielding is highly desirable." This suggests Apple may be looking to develop a new method of radio interference blocking for its smartphone lineup that could possibly reduce dependence on the current metal RFI shielding seen in wireless-capable devices.

As with many Apple job postings, other desirable qualities include experience in working with Asian manufacturers, problem solving skills and an ability to work as part of a team.

Apple has a number of patents regarding solar-powered devices, many involving portable devices like the iPod and iPhone. Most recently, the company outlined a system that uses a display's electrodes to both collect sunlight and act as capacitive touch sensors.

Solar power is becoming increasingly popular as light conversion efficiency increases, but the technology is not yet at the point where a panel can simply replace wall charging. A more likely scenario would be battery life augmentation for smaller portables, like a watch. Interestingly, Apple's smart watch patent, discovered by AppleInsider in February, directly mentions such a solution.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    How about on the keyboards and mice? Changing the batteries is downright frustrating at times on the Apple devices. Love my Logitech solar powered keyboard. Wish I had a mouse as friendly to work with!
  • Reply 2 of 33

    Not enough surface on a phone to power it. You would need a wide rimmed solar panelled iHat for that.

  • Reply 3 of 33

    Make a mouse pad with a solar cell. The mouse then gets charged by wireless induction from the mouse pad.

  • Reply 4 of 33
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,722member

    Haven't had to think about my Citizen watch battery since I was given it as a present nearly 8 years ago. Citizen's Eco-Drive, which employs a solar panel behind the watch face is good for a minimum of 30 days operation without light input, although mine continued to function for a much months recently when I was unable to wear it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eco-Drive

     

    Perhaps, should the face and band of an iWatch host a solar cell, external charging cycles might almost be eliminated were an M7 class processor used. Does anyone here know what the current draw is for that chip?

     

    Image courtesy of Citizen Watches:

     

  • Reply 5 of 33
    Most people keep phones in their pockets or a bag.
    I don't see how the job posting can be construed as for 'solar powered mobile devices'?
    Nor does it seem to make much sense.
  • Reply 6 of 33
    How about on the keyboards and mice? Changing the batteries is downright frustrating at times on the Apple devices. Love my Logitech solar powered keyboard. Wish I had a mouse as friendly to work with!

    Great. Keep an iPhone in your pocket while walking about with a mouse and keyboard, just to charge ¡ Any dictation key on that keyboard of yours? How about AZERTY or QWERTZ. Shift-lock anyone?
  • Reply 7 of 33

    Solar power has always been common sense to me since they put them on calculators 30 years ago. They don't have to necessarily power the whole phone, but they can keep the battery charged longer.

  • Reply 8 of 33
    Make a mouse pad with a solar cell. The mouse then gets charged by wireless induction from the mouse pad.

    One slight little problem you've overlooking, how are are going to get sunlight onto the mouse pad?
  • Reply 9 of 33
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

    Not enough surface on a phone to power it. You would need a wide rimmed solar panelled iHat for that.

     

    Doesn't a kilowatt of solar energy per square foot hit the Earth? What is it, is it a full kilowatt? Couple hundred watts? All that matters is increasing performance of said cells or finding a new tech to take care of all that power.

  • Reply 10 of 33
    Wasn't there some apple patent about having solar receptors between pixels? Or am I just making that up?
  • Reply 11 of 33
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CustomTB View Post



    Wasn't there some apple patent about having solar receptors between pixels? Or am I just making that up?

     

    I think you just dreamt this one up. It would be great though.

  • Reply 12 of 33
    dasanman69 wrote: »
    One slight little problem you've overlooking, how are are going to get sunlight onto the mouse pad?

    The Logitech keyboard works fine with desk lighting or diffused sunshine through the window. I would think an inductive mouse pad/mouse would work, too. Interesting idea.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    Originally Posted by CustomTB View Post

    Wasn't there some apple patent about having solar receptors between pixels? Or am I just making that up?

     

    You're thinking of the one where the camera is inside the screen so you're looking directly at the person with whom you're videoconferencing.

     

    That one needs to happen.

  • Reply 14 of 33
    realistic wrote: »
    I think you just dreamt this one up. It would be great though.

    Looks like it was part of the touch panel not the display pixels http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/02/05/apples-solar-cell-multitouch-panels-may-harvest-energy-for-future-iphones
  • Reply 15 of 33
    Solar touch pad?
  • Reply 17 of 33
    Have you heard? Apple will be releasing a new solar-powered, fully sapphire glass-covered, graphene/Retina Display iPad Mini with a 100MP camera in October. For $299.

    And if they don't I'm dumping my stock. /s
  • Reply 18 of 33
    I believe it would be better to pursue energy generated by the body because we always have our devices in close contact. Even in winter months our bodies can produce lots of heat due to the heavy clothes we wear. Click in the link below and see what this 15-year-old girl invited with this technology.
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/353536
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Under perfect conditions, 1 kW of sunlight hits the surface at high noon. Perfect conditions means that the collecting surface is pointed directly at the sun (perpendicular to it). At any other orientation, you reduce the amount by the cosine of the subtended angle.

    Due to the apparent movement of the sun over the course of a day, the "perfect conditions" only last for a short period of time. What one does is calculate the location of the sun for every second of a day, use the cosine adjustment, and then add up the results. This provides the number of "sun hours".

    For instance, here in Toronto that number is about 5.5 hours in the summer and 2.5 in the winter. That means that over a 24 hour period, I'm effectively getting only 2.4 hours of "perfect sunlight" a day in the winter. Early and late in the day I get basically zero power, but I still have a nice noontime, and when you add all of that up it's like the sun turned on at the noontime position and then turned off again 2.4 hours later.

    Now of course the sun hours doesn't take into account the direction of the *collector*, that number assumes the collector is perfectly pointed at the sun. If I were to put my iPhone on a table, there will be an additional correction. For instance, on September 15 at 3 pm here in Toronto, the sun is at 38 degrees above the horizon, so I would apply cos(90-38) = 0.6 to the resulting figure.

    The iPhone 5S is 124 by 59 mm, or 0.007316 square meters. That means under perfect conditions I'm getting 7.3 watts of power if the iPhone is pointed directly at the sun. In the summer, then, I would make 7.3 times 5.5 Watt-hours, or 40 Wh. That's for the whole day.

    Now that's Wh of sunlight, not electricity. Thin film solar cells are about 10% efficient, so now I'm down to 4 Wh. DC-to-DC conversion of low voltages will drop perhaps another 35%, so I'm down to about 3 Wh Watts. Per day.

    The iPhone 5S has a 5.96 Whr battery according to reports. Therefore it will take something on the order of two days to charge up the power I use in less than one day. In fact, the 0.3W is likely significantly taken up by the electronics required to run the solar cell, so it's almost certainly a net *loss*.

    So basically, this is not going to happen.

    I'm a physicist who sells solar power systems and runs a well regarded blog on energy issues, just so I don't get any "you're wrong" answers. I'm not.
  • Reply 20 of 33
    Originally Posted by Maury Markowitz View Post

    [post]

     

    I love you. We need more people like you here.

     

    And in addition, never mind that the iPhone's in a pocket for most of the time it's not being used. <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

Sign In or Register to comment.