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Is the next big thing going to be a solar-powered Macbook from Apple?

Apple’s new patent — U.S. number 8,638,549 — concerns a rear plate for the MacBook. It could be used to house solar cells. (The correct term is photovoltaic, but I’m trying to keep things relatively clean here.) From Apple Insider:

Finally, Apple proposes a photovoltaic system may also be disposed between the rear panel and front-facing LCD screen. With the glass backing and electrochromic layer in transparent mode, light is able to hit photovoltaic cells, which in turn converts the energy into electrical power for storage or immediate use.

The patent goes on to describe in detail LED lighting techniques, construction and a variety of build options relating specifically to the display housing.

Solar and Apple have a long history — it’s building a solar factory in Mesa (AZ) that should constitute 2K jobs, for example. The whole idea of prominent Apple products being solar could shift the entire way we work (i.e. outdoors in the park, with our solar-powered laptops), which would be (a) utopian but (b) cool.

Solar is a big thing right now — the technology is getting close and context around the industry could have a huge effect on the 2016 Presidential race — so Apple getting in now (well, the patent application was filed about four years ago) and doing it right / big would be a huge step in the process.

Ted Bauer

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