As 2010 began, Apple filed for a patent for a process to power portable gadgets with built-in "transparent solar panels." The submitted drawings show a system that can sustain a constant electrical flow even if some of these panels are covered—when the user holds the gadget for instance, or places it on a table.
The debut of the iPhone 4, with its glass panel construction, has rekindled interest in this patent application for the folks over at Patently Apple. As Jack Purcher writes:
"If Apple has indeed shifted their next generation iPhone design to carry a glass-like back panel, as was shown in their lost Apple prototype, then it could very well mean that Apple is, at the very least, paving the way for a double-sided solar panel based iPhone in the future as noted earlier."
A lengthy read on the system, including details on power and solar cell management, is available through the second link below. No doubt, the idea of powering gadgets with solar energy isn't a new one, and neither is the concept of maintaining a consistent power supply even when some solar cells lose efficiency.
But it isn't certain if Apple will apply the patent any time soon. Given the momentum the company enjoys however, you can bet a lot more people will start talking about solar-powered gadgets once Steve Jobs starts pimping the first solar-powered Apple gadget on stage. With straightforward yet cleverly-worded sound bites, Apple will paint itself as an innovator once again—even if that might not be the case.