Apple is reportedly looking into solar panels as a power source for handheld devices and portable computers.
A recently published patent application discovered by the Apple enthusiast site MacRumors.com describes a technique in which solar panels would be built behind a portable device's LCD screen. From that location, the panels could absorb ambient light that passes through.
The technique would eliminate the need for Apple to redesign its iPods and laptops to make room for the new technology, MacRumors said. Among the problems with using solar panels on devices are durability and the need to take up valuable space on the compact devices.
Apple isn't the first to consider this technique for using solar power. Motorola describes a similar approach in a 2001 patent described in the blog TreeHugger.
Apple and technology companies routinely apply for patents on technology that may never find its way into products.
The U.S. Patent Office this year granted Apple a patent that describes a new instant messaging interface for touch-screen devices, such as the iPhone and iPod Touch. The technology lets users manipulate chat conversations in real time by editing old chats. It also enables people to embed video and images, which is something the iPhone can't do today.
In April, Apple filed two patent applications that describe improvements in head-mounted displays, which typically combine one or two small display screens with magnifying lenses inside a helmet or glasses. Apple claimed in the applications that its approach provides a "a wider field of view and [creates] a more natural viewing situation for a user of a head-mounted display, which results in improved comfort and usability for head mounted displays."
In March, an Apple patent application filed described a three-dimensional display system that could be used in computers for displaying 3-D images.
Apple doesn't comment on future products.