Mobile Technology

Display of Kyocera's smartphone prototype soaks up solar power

Kyocera has developed a smartphone prototype that features a display with a Wysips Crystal layer for harnessing power from the sun's rays
Kyocera has developed a smartphone prototype that features a display with a Wysips Crystal layer for harnessing power from the sun's rays
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The Wysips photovoltaic layer from Sunpartner Technologies (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
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The Wysips photovoltaic layer from Sunpartner Technologies (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
The PV layer can be placed above or below the touchscreen (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
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The PV layer can be placed above or below the touchscreen (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
The Wysips photovoltaic layer is available for screens of three to 13 inches (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
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The Wysips photovoltaic layer is available for screens of three to 13 inches (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
The Wysips PV layer is said to be 90 percent transparent (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
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The Wysips PV layer is said to be 90 percent transparent (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
The Wysips photovoltaic layer is available for screens of 3 to 13 inches (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
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The Wysips photovoltaic layer is available for screens of 3 to 13 inches (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
How Wysips fits in a smartphone (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
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How Wysips fits in a smartphone (Image credit: Sunpartner Technologies)
Kyocera has developed a smartphone prototype that features a display with a Wysips Crystal layer for harnessing power from the sun's rays
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Kyocera has developed a smartphone prototype that features a display with a Wysips Crystal layer for harnessing power from the sun's rays

Kyocera likes to position itself as a maker of smartphones that can go anywhere, with ruggedized, waterproof devices like the Bear Grylls-endorsed Brigadier. Building on that reputation, the company is showing a new solar-powered prototype that can also charge anywhere, so long as it's not too dark or cloudy.

This week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Kyocera is showing off a concept phone that uses its own display to convert the sun's rays into juice for its battery. While we've previously seen devices that harness the sun's rays via solar cells mounted on the chassis, Kyocera's prototype employs a transparent photovoltaic layer that can be placed on top of or beneath the touchscreen.

The specific technology on display this week comes from a company named Sunpartner, which makes a power-generating display layer called the Wysips (What you see is photovoltaic surface) Crystal connected to a chip that manages and converts solar energy into power that can be stored in the device's battery.

Sunpartner says Wysips is capable of delivering up to 5 milliWatt-peak/cm2, a figure the company expects to soon double thanks to next-generation photovoltaic materials. The layer is only 0.1 mm thick, making it easy to add to a device without impacting the aesthetic design. The company also claims that it will not impact the the display's touch capabilities.

While today's high-powered smartphones won't likely be able to be self-sufficient on solar power alone, lower power devices like e-readers and more basic phones could theoretically go charger free with this kind of technology. A Tag Heuer watch sporting one of these layers is touted as having "infinite power."

In the instance of smartphones like Kyocera's, Sunpartner says its technology could offer infinite standby time so long as sunlight is available. Perhaps the best selling point for those who use ruggedized phones in the field is that the solar power layer can essentially offset the battery drain caused by searching for a network in more remote areas and allow for a reserve of power for emergency calls.

While Kyocera seems to be the first company we've heard of demonstrating solar power generated from a device's screen, Sharp did something very similar several years ago with a solar "lid" for a smartphone, but that never really made it to any markets beyond Asia.

Sunpartner, on the other hand, says its system can work on displays ranging from three to 13 inches, including smartwatches, phones and tablets. For more on the technology, check out the promotional video below.

Sources: Kyocera, Sunpartner

Wysips® Crystal for mobile devices by Sunpartner Technologies

4 comments
JweenyPwee
Awesome. I've said for years phone makers (tablets even) should incorporate photovoltaic panels into the front and rear surface areas. It won't be enough to fully charge the device day-to-day, but it could possibly keep it topped up depending on use. Not to mention in emergency situations.
VoiceofReason
Since Kyocera have wireless charging on most of the phones anyway, why not just put a thin film on the back and make that the solar panel?! More surface area.
Derek Howe
kinda pointless if ya ask me, no one leaves their phone just sitting out in the sun. They are either using it, or it's in their pocket.
kazeshindo
@JweenyPwee I agree with you. Many people been asking for some kind of built in solar panel for smart phones and now they came up with one for devices that does not consume too much power. However, conversion from solar to electricity is not very efficient so adding it onto a smartphone (battery drainer) will not make much of a difference. It might or might not slow down the drain on the battery. If the efficiency on the photovoltaic surface was as good a standard solar panel. Then maybe it is possible to add them to smart phone and not rely on cord during day time. Possibly might not have to be on cord at all. @VoiceofReason Even if you add the photovoltaic surface (solar screen) on the back, surface will not matter at all. It is the conversion from solar to electricity that is key. Adding more surface area allows the screen to capture more sunlight; however, if the conversion rate is low, then it will make no difference at all. You might as well stick to wired/wireless charging. @Derek Howe Not completely pointless, not everyone leaves their phone sitting in their pocket. Also, while using it, it can still absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. Charging does not necessarily mean just leave it out in the sun and not use it. As long as the sunlight hits the screen (whether you use it or not), it will charge the battery. Anyways, don't people leave their phone out to charge connecting it to a nearby outlet? I highly doubt they are charging their phone in their pockets....