Solar Plastic Panels Built Onto Cell Phones by 2010

By August 10, 2009

The recent popularity of smartphones has put more pressure than ever on a longer lasting battery. Not just used for phone calls anymore, but for games, music and Internet, small power cells that used to be sufficient for the job are draining quicker than ever. An article about a start-up in El Monte, CA pins hope on portable power-gathering from the sun. Solarmer is creating organic thin-film solar plastic which will be on the market in 18 months. Pursuing consumer-electronics on which to affix its panels, instead of on rooftops or solar farms  they plan on being cheaper and more efficient than current options.

At this point, Konarka Technologies and G24 Innovations manufacture solar chargers and bags, but Solarmer plans to create a niche market with thin-film that can be installed directly onto the handset. The adaptable material can be cut into any shape and made in many colors.

The solar cells perform "world record conversion efficiencies," says Earth2Tech's article . "Dina Lozofsky, vice president for strategic asset management at Solarmer, said the company expects to reach 4 percent efficiency by the time it launches its first product, with manufacturing costs of less than $1 per watt."

That translates to a one hour charge for as much as ten minutes of talk time. The piece of film will cost two to five dollars per phone at first, then it will drop.

For now Solarmer is working on extending the short lifetime of its panels. Typical of organic-photovoltaic technologies, the panels degrade to about eighty percent of performance after one year. Their goal by production in 2010 will be eighteen months of product life by non-cost-prohibitive means.

While the organic PV market for consumer electronics is likely to remain niche, the company will expand from its initial target of cell phone batteries. Once the limited lifetime is expanded, they hope to move into building-integrated, window-sized panels.

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