Apple has received a patent for a solar power system for mobile devices, a possible solution for keeping iPhone and iPad batteries charged for longer periods.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded patent number 7,868,582 Tuesday. Apple originally filed for patent in February 2009.
Solar panels have been used as an energy source for recharging batteries in consumer electronics for some time. The latest patent is an indication that Apple is at least interested in developing its own technology. The company already has three other patents related to solar-powered devices, according to Patently Apple, a site that tracks Apple's patent pursuits.
Receiving a patent does not necessarily lead to an Apple product. The secretive company doesn't discuss future product plans. Apple's current mobile devices, particularly the iPhone and iPad, could certainly benefit from any device that could recharge a battery when a wall outlet is not easily accessible. Battery life in the devices is measured in hours when in use.
The latest patent is for a system that could be used in an external charger or for one embedded in a mobile devices, which could be a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or some other gadget. The heart of the invention is a voltage converter that would convert solar power into an energy source capable of recharging a battery.
Apple would not be the first to tap the sun's energy to recharge an iPhone and iPad. Third-party external chargers exist today. One of the newest is from Dexim. The charger has two solar panels that feed a battery in the device. A plugged-in iPhone would be charged from the battery, not directly from the solar panels. Dexim demonstrated the device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., this month.
Other vendors that make solar-powered chargers for the iPhone include Solio, Solar, and Lenmar.