Future Smartphones that Will Power Themselves

Apple will be wishing they had known about this technology before they released the iPhone 4S. A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge believe they could have developed a battery that could help mobile phones power themselves.

The team, led by Professor Arokia Nathan developed a prototype handset that uses what is called a thin-film hydrogenated amorphous silicon that will sit inside the screen of the device. It works by using wasted light and converting it into electricity. Using photo-voltaics, the same sort of technology used in solar panels works to keep the electricity flow on an even level by using a super-capacitor and a transistor circuit. Essentially this means if the voltage spikes, which could damage circuitry on the device, it will be smoothed out. Professor Nathan says its average efficiency is 11%, raising up to 18%. Under the right lighting conditions the researchers think the technology could generate 165 microwatts per square centimetre.

Professor Nathan breaks that down even further for smartphone users. Say you have a device that has a 3.7 inch screen. That means the maximum amount of power it could generate would be 5 milliwatts, which would be useful.

This will be good news for smartphone users who feel they have to give up a long-lasting battery in exchange for a powerful device. On average batteries last a day, which is accepted by users who can charge up their devices overnight. Batteries that have struggled and found complaints posted online include Apple’s iPhone 4S and the Nokia Lumia 800. Apple found themselves on the receiving end of criticism after it was discovered that the new device, launched in October 2011, lost power quickly thanks to its powerful A5 chip and dual core processor. An iOS update has been rolled out to solve the issue. Both Nokia and Apple released advice to users about how to save their battery life, which included switching off location services and reducing screen brightness.

A thin film within the smartphone’s screen could remove the need for much of that. Other tools, like battery powered mobile charges that just give phones a little extra bit of power when their battery is running out have proved increasingly popular. For people using their smartphones on the move a dead smartphone is incredibly frustrating.

However the team at the University of Cambridge is not expecting their technology to be released any time soon. They say there is still work to be done. Yet they also say there is room for improvement and they will continue to see how they can make it work even better.