Imagine: a solar-powered screen that could quickly charge up your new iPad. Solar chargers are certainly nothing new, but this circuit is embedded right in the touchscreen, so you don’t have to set the device on its back to catch light. It’s not a reality yet, but it might be soon, courtesy of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.
The scientists have developed the world’s first photovoltaic circuit that can continuously power itself as long as it’s left in a sunny area. That means computer touchscreens could eventually act like both computer chips and electrical chargers.
The technology is far from debuting on store shelves — the team can currently only produce tiny amounts of energy with the circuit — but that’s expected to change quickly. Once the technology has matured, it could be used for everything from powering small robotic devices and artificial neural networks to running ultra-fast computer calculations. If all goes well, the circuit could make our current generation of solar chargers look ancient.