The ever-spreading Internet of Things demands energy sources that are powerful, light, mobile, and inexpensive to purchase and operate. Recharging batteries via cables and wireless connections gets old quickly. Just think about the last time you were in an airport or coffee shop searching for an available AC outlet to keep your devices running or to grab a quick charge. When we’re at home or in the office we have to manage a growing assortment of chargers, adapters, and cables and when we’re traveling or just out and about during the day our good-to-go checklist includes the devices we need and the assurance we can keep them powered. Clutter and hassle will never carry the day.
Alta Devices‘ AnyLight thin film gallium arsenic (GaAs) solar technology may the answer for wearable fitness and health tech devices as well as for charging smart phones, tablets, notebook computers, and hot spots. According to the manufacturer, the AnyLight material can produce 250 watts from a square meter of film. This makes the technology suitable for charging devices from wearables to vehicles and drones. It can also provide primary power sources for structures off the conventional grid. Only 110 microns thick (.11 mm), AnyLight is thin, light, and flexible enough to wrap around a 40 mm (1.5748 inch) cylinder and weighs only 1 gram per watt. Alta Devices claims that the film can convert 28.8% of the light it receives, compared to 10% or less with more commonly used silicon solar cells. As with other solar cells, the GaAs cells can be added in series to add voltage or in parallel to add current. Gallium arsenic has been much more expensive than silicon for solar applications, but Alta Devices has developed a production process that cuts cost significantly.
With its light, thin, flexible solar cell power technology, AnyLight could be built into wearables including clothing and on the back of cell phones and other mobile devices, freeing us from the necessity of finding AC outlets and in some applications directly powering the technology we carry and wear.