The Future of Green: Solar-Powered Smartphone Chargers

**This is the newest installment of our blog series: The Future of Green. Every other Friday we will post a blog about a cutting-edge and futuristic innovation in the world of green technology. Technology is one of several barriers that stand between today’s society and a sustainable future. The innovators we highlight through The Future of Green are shattering these barriers. Make sure to tune in every other Friday for a glimpse into the future of energy and sustainability.

Pretty soon, you’ll be able to charge your iPhone by plugging it directly into a solar panel. Apple recently filed a patent for the technology. The company has long taken an interest in solar—it has 7 existing solar-related patents—but this particular one takes advantage of existing technology and will likely be made available in the short term.

Currently, iPhone users who wish to draw power from solar panels must filter the solar energy through a bulky adapter, which converts the energy into specific direct current (DC) voltages that are compatible with Apple devices.

With Apple’s pending technology, the voltage conversion process would take place within the device, making external adapters unnecessary.

“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.”

The technology is a bit complicated. According to Apple, “the integrated power management system would include a system micro controller (SMC) and a charger. Power would flow to the system from either an AC-to-DC adapter or directly from a photovoltaic solar panel’s output, which is DC only, then be measured and converted to the necessary voltage.”

“The SMC monitors system power metrics like battery charge, health and input power type, among others, and manages the power stage accordingly.”

While the technology will likely be available to consumers soon, its usefulness will be limited at first. For one, most iPhone users simply don’t have access to solar technology. Nonetheless, that technology is fast-developing, and Apple is certainly doing its part. Currently, 100% of its data centers are powered by renewable energy, and 75% of all facilities are powered by renewables.