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Self-Charging Smartphones? Possible Thanks To UCLA’s Photovoltaic Polarizers

Researchers at UCLA, are looking into ways to have your smartphone never die. Could you even imagine an HTC Thunderbolt that lasts longer than 6 hours? Well, a new recycling LCD technology, that if brought to the market would recharge its own battery.

We all know that the screen takes the most out of our batteries (unless you have a 4G device wink wink), so if they can somehow use the huge drain to recharge itself, then that is complete winning. An added bonus to this technology, is that you would also be able to use the never-ending power of the sun to charge your phone as well. Just the way it should be. 

The team at UCLA states that 80-90% of a phone’s power is lost to the screen itself, so while using their “polarizing organic photovoltaic cells”, the device will recycle all energy that the screen burns off. If they are able to get this technology onto devices, who is picking it up? Solar powered phones should have been out years ago for mass consumption, but we are guessing that the battery lobbyists could not allow that.

Full Press Release:

Phone losing charge? Technology created by UCLA engineers allows LCDs to recycle energy
With photovoltaic polarizers, devices could be powered by sunlight, own backlight

We’ve all worried about the charge on our smartphone or laptop running down when we have no access to an electrical outlet. But new technology developed by researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science could finally help solve the problem.

The UCLA engineers have created a novel concept for harvesting and recycling energy for electronic devices – one that involves equipping these devices’ LCD screens with built-in photovoltaic polarizers, allowing them to convert ambient light, sunlight and their own backlight into electricity.

LCDs, or liquid crystal displays, are used in many of today’s electronic devices, including smartphones, TV screens, computer monitors, laptops and tablet computers. They work by using two polarized sheets that let only a certain amount of a device’s backlight pass through. Tiny liquid crystal molecules are sandwiched between the two polarizers, and these crystals can be switched by tiny transistors to act as light valves. Manipulating each light valve, or pixel, lets a certain amount of the backlight escape; millions of pixels are combined to create images on LCDs.

The UCLA Engineering team created a new type of energy-harvesting polarizer for LCDs called a polarizing organic photovoltaic, which can potentially boost the function of an LCD by working simultaneously as a polarizer, a photovoltaic device and an ambient light or sunlight photovoltaic panel.

Their research findings are currently available in the online edition of the journal Advanced Materials and will be published in a forthcoming print issue of the journal.

“I believe this is a game-changer invention to improve the efficiency of LCD displays,” said Yang Yang, a professor of materials science at UCLA Engineering and principal investigator on the research. “In addition, these polarizers can also be used as regular solar cells to harvest indoor or outdoor light. So next time you are on the beach, you could charge your iPhone via sunlight.”

From the point of view of energy use, current LCD polarizers are inefficient, the researchers said. A device’s backlight can consume 80 to 90 percent of the device’s power. But as much as 75 percent of the light generated is lost through the polarizers. A polarizing organic photovoltaic LCD could recover much of that unused energy.

“In the near future, we would like to increase the efficiency of the polarizing organic photovoltaics, and eventually we hope to work with electronic manufacturers to integrate our technology into real products”, Yang said. “We hope this energy-saving LCD will become a mainstream technology in displays.”

“Our coating method is simple, and it can be applied in the future in large-area manufacturing processes,” said Rui Zhu, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA Engineering and the paper’s lead author.

“The polarizing organic photovoltaic cell demonstrated by Professor Yang’s research group can potentially harvest 75 percent of the wasted photons from LCD backlight and turn them back into electricity,” said Youssry Boutros, program director for the Intel Labs Academic Research Office, which supported the research. “The strong collaboration between this group at UCLA Engineering and other top groups has led to higher cell efficiencies, increasing the potential for harvesting energy. This approach is interesting in its own right and at the same time synergetic with several other projects we are funding through the Intel Labs Academic Research Office.”

Ankit Kumar, a materials science and engineering graduate student at UCLA Engineering was the paper’s second author.

Yang, who holds UCLA’s Carol and Lawrence E. Tannas Jr. Endowed Chair in Engineering, is also faculty director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

The research was supported by Intel through a gift to UCLA, and by the Office of Naval Research.

Via: Engadget

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  • RW-1

    Could be an interesting supplement to current battery technology.

    Question is whether or not what is recovered would be more than what was being used.

    I’d see it more likely useful while the phone is idle than on, don’t get me wrong, I know it would be using the screen itself while on, however what we don’t know is just how much charge would be produced versus what is consumed during use.

  • http://thisisjohncoffey.com GRAND MASTER SEN$Ei {{-_-}}™

    Go USC. {{-_-}}

  • http://www.411droid.com Tyler

    Freaking awesome, I’m sourcing this article at my android blog http://411droid.com — thanks for share!

  • Anonymous

    Look at all of the fake iPhones….

  • Anonymous

    There’s also batteries that charge themselves from the radiation or whatever from standard WiFi signals.

  • Anonymous

    i’ll pay extra to have a Droid that won’t die.

  • Scooterman7

    The Never Ending Power of the SUN to charge the battery?  Are you kidding? That should trigger the heat detectors inside that VOID the warranty….. LOL

  • Scooterman7

    The Never Ending Power of the SUN to charge the battery?  Are you kidding? That should trigger the heat detectors inside that VOID the warranty….. LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/2cheezy4u Eric Chee

    Though I am an Engineer at the University of Washington, it’s still a lil foreign to me. However, I’m reading these comments and seems like many of you have input and tips of why this technology will or won’t work. Instead of proving a point here on Droid-Life, I STRONGLY suggest you submit those comments to the UCLA research group that worked on this technlogy. I cannot tell you how many times it would’ve been nice to have outside feed back when I was working on a research project for the university. Please help the tech community so we all can contribute to amazing products.

  • Anonymous

    In this house we obey the laws of THERMODYNAMICS!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XC4PMFUCSAARVY3EUEQ3JFSSTE GJ

    Hey, we obey the laws of thermodynamics in this house!

  • http://www.facebook.com/LOLJUSTIN Justin Mauritz

    Insert smartass comment about your “never ending sun power” remark.

    IT ENDS!!!!
    Just like Apple will when this is released ;)

  • Nailsmails

    This is really pointly technology. 1) thinkhow long it would take to charge our phones with an actual photo cell the size of our screens, like forever. Most solar chargers take 24-48 hours to charge a phone in full sun. I usually keep my phone in my pocket all day. 2) They are forgetting OLED’s which don’t have this issue of backlighting loss and are much more efficient.

    • dieringer scott

      IT wouldnt only use the sun   it would use the screens own light to charge it

  • Sam Stern

    Turn their own backlight into electricity?   The rest of this sounds good but that is just stupid.   Imagine pointing a flashlight at a solar panel to get electricity… sounds dumb because it is.   You can’t gain here, you can only lose.  The energy you gain from the backlight will be less than the extra energy needed to boost the backlight to compensate for the light that is not transmitted through the solar cell.

    • Tiptoptommy

      hmmm a paradox?

    • Anonymous

      ^ This

      • Anonymous

        I would imagine this tech would have to work along side a battery for a hybrid approach to become viable in a phone.  The “recycled” power would extend the battery life between traditional charges, not replace it.  

    • Sean27030

      recouperative tech silly, like regenerative breaks on a hybrid you don’t go around riding your breaks to charge your batt there either… lol… plus it’s not just the sun.. about any light source, including incandecent and flourecent lights, will create charge through a photovoltaic collector… charging while the phone is sitting on your desk or dash is a plus… I mean seriously, who has their cell back light on ALL THE FREAK”N TIME… :)

      • Anonymous

        “deleted”

    • Anonymous

      But they never said anything about “needed to boost the backlight to compensate for the light that is not transmitted through the solar cell”.  I didn’t read the link to the full paper I will admit, just what was quoted above, but only mention of the word boost was in relation to efficiency, not power output.

    • twohands

      They don’t claim to turn all of the backlight’s energy into electricity, just 75%. And it doesn’t block out any extra light as it replaces the polarizer that is already in there. So, using their most optimistic numbers, you’re recovering 75% of the light that’s lost in the polarizers already, which is 75% of the total backlight. Thus you’re recovering 56% of the power used by the backlight, which is about 50% of the total power expended by the device. This means it would double the battery life just from the backlight recycling.

  • http://profiles.google.com/isaacinsley Isaac Insley

    hopefully you use your phone in the day…..outside…..in direct sunlight

    • http://www.facebook.com/bryanpwilliams Bryan Williams

      Then we’ll have consumers suing manufacturers for skin cancer.

    • pezjono

      What is this… “outside” you speak of?

    • LionStone

      I do work outdoors and some of the areas are so hot I have to keep the phone in a cooler so it doesn’t melt. Ive seen some solar devices as an attachement to the phone, to keep the battery charged but I can see the phone getting fried with that kind of set up, this technology looks promising.

  • Anonymous

    It would be cool if this were out in time for the Nexus Prime, but sadly no. 

  • Jelly

    My thunderbolt gets about 12 hours with 4G on and regular use.

    It’s called Das BAMF 3.0 RC4.

  • El El Kool J

    Watch this extreme technological breakthrough suddenly disappear. Battery manufactures will pay off whatever amount it takes to keep this off the market!

    There’s no money in a cure now is there!

    • Anonymous

      Not to cut down you’re fire, but this “extreme technological breakthrough” is nothing new. A few years ago an engineering team managed to not only charge batteries wirelessly, but make it so your phone didn’t have to touch anything as well. You could literally walk through your front door and it would start charging. And as for your “battery manufactures” statement, that makes no sense. Batteries will still be needed. Any energy taken from the screen or sun or whatever they want to take it from has to be stored somewhere. It can’t just sit in the air. Money has nothing to do with it. The problem is making something cost effective. Adding that to a phone would add a lot of money. Do you want to pay for a $2000 phone? Because I don’t. Research and development would be out the roof as well as finding a way to manufacture the POP that doesn’t have much waste and doesn’t cost more than what people will pay for a phone. Honestly, it’s more the consumers fault because we won’t pay for a phone that costs so much. So shell out, or deal with it. Companies listen. It’s just about how you talk to them.

    • Anonymous

      Not to cut down you’re fire, but this “extreme technological breakthrough” is nothing new. A few years ago an engineering team managed to not only charge batteries wirelessly, but make it so your phone didn’t have to touch anything as well. You could literally walk through your front door and it would start charging. And as for your “battery manufactures” statement, that makes no sense. Batteries will still be needed. Any energy taken from the screen or sun or whatever they want to take it from has to be stored somewhere. It can’t just sit in the air. Money has nothing to do with it. The problem is making something cost effective. Adding that to a phone would add a lot of money. Do you want to pay for a $2000 phone? Because I don’t. Research and development would be out the roof as well as finding a way to manufacture the POP that doesn’t have much waste and doesn’t cost more than what people will pay for a phone. Honestly, it’s more the consumers fault because we won’t pay for a phone that costs so much. So shell out, or deal with it. Companies listen. It’s just about how you talk to them.

  • Anonymous

    Only trouble is both Moto and Apple already have patents on this…

  • Rymanh24

    Even if this technology was introduced into cell phones it would not kill the battery market all together. Nine times out of ten the phone is in our pocket, on our desk, somewhere where there is no light, or its charging lol. I think this technology would simply help lengthen the life of a charge time. Possibly by quite a few hours, however we would still need batteries.

    Plus battery technology is almost ancient by now, so many batteries are recycled or thrown in the garbage and are left to rot in dumps all over the world.

    Let’s move forward with technology already so I can have my damn hover car already!

  • Anonymous

    please let this come out

  • Interstellarmind

    if this happens, then we’ll be using mobile devices like they did in Star Trek: TNG in no time.

  • Nitpicker;)

    “Solar powered phones should of been out years ago”
    HAVE not OF. Love your articles Tim-O, but you’re a journalist now, you must work on grammar.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Tim-o-tato

      Thanks ;)

    • Peter Bartholomul

      Decent smartphones weren’t even out years ago. Believe it or not the first touch screen smartphone was the first Iphone which was released in 2007 4 years ago and the first android smartphone was released in 2009 2 years ago. So why would they release solar powered phones before smartphones worth buying were even released? If they did released solar powered flip phones they would  suck and be useless since no one really uses a flip phone as much as a smartphone. It would make more sense to first release phones that would need  this kind of technology like dual core 4g smartphones

      • Sean Maloney

        Sorry, HTC’s O2 XDA (released in 2002!) “was the first 3.5-inch color touch screen smartphone in the world”.  Yes, 5 years before Apple.  And HP’s iPaq line with phone adapters were also released long before the iPhone.  At the time, they were great devices.

        Also, if you read the article, they are not nearly as interested in collecting solar power as they are in recycling the phone’s backlight that is already filtered from your eyes.

  • Boners

    You guys are idiots.  My thunderbolt lasts 12 hours easily.

    • DroidzFX

      So does my erection

  • Anonymous

    I have little cord thingamabobs at home, in my office and car. They haven’t failed me yet… :-)

  • http://twitter.com/WaltPartlo Walter Partlo

    Here is the paper for anyone interested.

    http://yylab.seas.ucla.edu/papers/201101514_ftp.pdf

  • Legoturte92

    Err I thought of this a few years ago. We might as well start putting solar panels on practically everything.

    • LionStone

      We are… :-) Some of the devices aren’t worth a crap but some are quite useful…it is if you are outdoors enough. Years ago we thought it’d be great to have panels light enough to integrate into our backpacks, so on the way to the mountain we were gonna climb, and on the climb, we could juice up our headlamps and be assured we had light for getting back out if it got dark. Well now they have this technology. It’ll be nice to have this integrated into our phones, for me, I’ll definitely benefit.

  • Peter Bartholomul

    I wonder who apple will sue for this and the reason behind it.

    • Finire

      They’ll probably sue the sun for daring to charge devices that aren’t there own, and the users for using the screens that are charging the batteries.

      • Peter Bartholomul

        lol

      • http://twitter.com/MrBouche MrBouche

        They’ll report the sun as infringing on it’s proprietary and costly wire chargers as a means of providing energy to it’s device.  The world’s governments, as f–king stupid as they are, will bend over and give in to their pleas to enclose the world in a shield to block the sun out until it’s been determined that the sun’s not impacting Apple’s mission to get everyone’s last cent. har har har. ;)

      • Anonymous

        I paid $23.88 for an i Pad 2 32-GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic

        Lumiix GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.41 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I

        will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when

        I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 635 which only cost me $ 61.74

        to buy. Here is the website we use to get it al from,
        http://EgoWin.com

    • Robert White

      Oh I’m betting they already have a patent stashed in their pocket that was filed in 1977 by iSteve & it reads like a professional research journal on why Apple owns solar energy exclusively & shall at a time they see fit begin to charge the world for it’s use. Granted this is pure insanity I’m spewing, but that about sums up Apple’s strategy to deal with competition doesn’t it?

      • Omega Man

        Ironically, not too far from the truth. apple did file for a patent to allow for charging a device in a similar fashion earlier this year I believe. 

  • Tiptoptommy

    will these screens have a nice display or will we sacrifice resolution for eternal battery life? 

  • http://twitter.com/tittlemanscrest Stephen Parker

    SCIENCE FICTION GOODNESS! 

  • http://twitter.com/Rocko9999 Rocko Smith

    Who leaves their cell phone laying in the sun?

    • Tiptoptommy

      i will if its worth it but as of right now my phone hates the sun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Forte/542650247 Michael Forte

    Make this a reality…NOW!

  • Anonymous

    My screen never uses more than 20% of my batter on a charge…3g is the real killer…with that out of the way, this technology is much needed.

  • Jason Purp

    Tim, if I had as many phones as you and Kellex, I would bathe in them every day.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Tim-o-tato

      What do you think I’m doing right now? Mmmmm haha

      • Jason Purp

        Hahaha