Yet another patent has emerged that demonstrates Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) ongoing interest in utilizing solar power for its electronic devices, Apple Insider reports. Apple has previously filed several patents that cover original solar cell technologies that can be used to generate power for portable electronic devices. However, in a recently published patent titled “Power management systems for accepting adapter and solar power in electronic devices,” Apple described a practical method for supplying its devices with solar power utilizing existing technologies.
In the patent background information, Apple noted that the lithium batteries found in most portable electronic devices today require regular charging. Since devices are typically charged from “mains electricity” sources via a power adapter, the operation of most current devices is dependent on the availability of an electrical outlet.
Most existing solar power solutions for electronic devices require external circuits in order to convert the solar panel energy into a current and voltage compatible with the electronic device’s lithium battery. However, Apple’s new patent eliminates the need for an external converter circuit between the solar panel and the power management system.
The output power of the solar panel would instead be managed by a “system microcontroller,” or SMC. The SMC would in turn supply power to the battery or other components in the electronic device without the use of a sizable converter circuit between the solar panel and the power management system. Since this system eliminates the need for relatively large and unwieldy external converter circuits, it allows Apple to incorporate a solar charging technology into its products without increasing the overall size of the devices.
The technology could easily be integrated into Apple’s future devices alongside more conventional charging technologies. As noted in the patent, this power management system can accept solar power and mains electricity power at the same time and can be used for “a laptop computer, a tablet computer, a portable media player, and a mobile phone.”
The use of solar power for mobile devices may eventually become a necessity as more energy-using features are added to increasingly smaller devices. In this sense, Apple’s patented solar power tech may one day give it an important technological edge over its rivals.
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Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS
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