Originally published on Think Progress.
By Jeff Spross.
If a new patent is any indication, Apple customers could soon be able to plug their iPhones directly into a solar panel for power.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the patent by Apple today. And while the company has seven previous solar-related patents to its name, this is the first one that would allow Apple users to plug their MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, and other devices directly into a solar panel without a bulky converter.
The patent describes a system that can accept “both power adapter and solar power direct from gathering devices” or traditional chargers, according to TechCrunch. Converting the solar panel’s power into a voltage, current, and so forth that’s compatible with the electronics would all happen within the device. “So in other words, you could plug in your MagSafe or iPad/iPod adapter, or alternatively hook a MacBook or other piece of hardware directly to a solar panel with a simple cord. There’s also a means for accepting both inputs at the same time, according to the patent, for a power balance that would likely charge your device quicker but with more economical use of juice from the grid.”
According to the patent, this can all be done with existing hardware, and with a collection of components small enough to fit in a laptop or iPhone.
Of course, to take advantage of that capability, consumers would need portable, on-the-go forms of solar power. For instance, a stripped-down version of this miniature solar panel that attaches to a window with a suction cup — but set up to deliver power directly, rather than storing charge. Or solar panels — already in use by the army — that can be unrolled and rolled up like placemats and carried in purses or backpacks. Or any number of other devices built from the ever thinner, more light weight, and more efficient solar cells that are steadily heading for the market.
Apple is apparently seeking an expert in such thin-film technology, which suggests its looking to move into the manufacture of solar-powered versions of its devices. And on a broader scale, Apple already brought all of their data centers onto 100 percent renewable energy, 75 percent of their facilities are powered by renewables worldwide.