Apple Patents A Cellular, Solar-Powered MacBook

Your next MacBook might be powered by the sun—at least partially. 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has just published 31 new patents to Apple Inc., some of which could lead to the creation of a truly futuristic computer. According to Patently Apple, which examined the multitude of technologies included in just one of the new patents, the next MacBook might be fitted with solar cells, backside touch sensors, and “smart glass.” 

According to the patent, Apple could make solar power work by building the laptop's top plate out of “smart glass,” also known as electrochromic glass. Electrochromic glass changes its light transmission properties in response to voltage, controlling the amount of light (and heat) that it transmits. 

Apple's diagram illustrates how future Macbooks might be able to absorb solar energy. Via Patently Apple. Apple's diagram illustrates how future Macbooks might be able to absorb solar energy. Via Patently Apple.

Apple’s patent calls for the top plate of a laptop to consist of solar cells sandwiched between a plate of “smart glass” in the back and your regular LCD display in the front. If it works, you could use adjust the smart glass to allow light to transmit to the solar cells in order to charge your battery.

Another noteworthy inclusion in the patent is the addition of backside touch sensors, which could mean touch-based interaction with your laptop even when it’s fully closed. The patent is designed for future MacBooks, but it’s easy to see how touch sensor technology could apply to a number of different Apple products. 

The patent also continued to boost Apple’s number of patents regarding a future cellular MacBook, one which would be able to transmit and receive cellular telephone signals. According to Patently Apple, the company has been patenting similar technology since 2012. The newest patent stresses how seriously Apple takes its goal of creating a MacBook that can interact with cell phones, and even make and receive calls from them. 

The document notes that Apple originally applied for these patents back in the third quarter of 2010.

Photo by David Blaikie.