Powering Mobile Devices in Non-Traditional Ways

Innovative companies develop alternative charging methods.

By on August 16, 2013

While the battery life of mobile devices continues to grow – the upcoming DROID MAXX by Motorola will offer nearly two days of battery life from a single charge – the bottom line is that no battery lasts forever.

At some point, often the most inconvenient times, smartphones and tablets need to be charged, an issue that has led scientists and engineers to look into alternative charging methods.

SunPartner, an engineering firm specializing in solar, new energy technologies, is developing a nearly transparent solar cell module for smartphones. The technology is expected to increase the cell’s solar efficiency – the ratio of a solar cell’s power output relative to the amount of light it captures – to 30 percent from 8 percent, meaning that more power will be generated with less light. The super thin screen will fit on top of or under the touchscreen, giving the battery a boost anytime the phone is not in use and is in contact with natural or artificial light. SunPartner says this feature, expected to be available next year, will allow for up to 50 percent more talk time.

Also banking on the sun’s rays, OnBeat solar headphones will charge devices they’re connected to when exposed to sunlight. These headphones, which are expected to be released in February 2014, will come equipped with a flexible solar panel embedded in the headband. According to TechCrunch.com, the solar panel charges batteries located inside the ear cups and a USB port on one of the cups delivers power to an attached smartphone or tablet.

Even a steaming cup of coffee or an ice-cold drink can give a device some much-needed juice. Using a Stirling engine, the Epiphany One Puck will channel hot and cold temperatures for power to charge a smartphone. A fixed amount of gas is sealed within a Stirling engine, and when it is exposed to changes in temperatures, the gas expands and contracts to move a piston, creating energy that can be sent to a device via a USB cord. Some scientists even see a future where smartphones are recharged through the power of friction and static electricity.

While many innovative charging methods are still in development, one option already on the market is the Panasonic SolarSmart. This small portable tool uses sunlight to power devices connected to it by a USB cord. Additionally, it charges two AA rechargeable batteries and can be used as an LED light source.

Alternative power will not only aid smartphone users when they find themselves in a situation without fuel, but they also represent energy-efficient solutions that are as helpful to the environment as they are to a device’s battery life.