With recent advances in photovoltaic panels and rechargeable batteries, it's only natural that there should now be an influx of solar-powered electronic devices. Just last week we profiled the Sunbox solar power system, that uses energy from the Sun to power three kinds of lights, recharge AA batteries, and juice up mobile phones. Now, it's time to take a look at a similar product, Third Wave Power's mPowerPad. It can charge mobile devices through its two USB ports, along with serving as a radio, flashlight, reading lamp, and even an ultrasonic insect-repelling device. As you might have noted in the photo, however, it has no external controls ... so how are you supposed to use the thing?

Third Wave describes the mPowerPad as the "world's first All-in-One portable solar charger with gesture-based technology." This doesn't mean that you gesture to it, but rather gesture with it - the pad contains an accelerometer, that allows users to change settings and functions by tilting or turning the device. Combined with its water-, dust- and shock-resistant qualities, the pad's lack of the traditional protruding knobs and switches makes it a fairly rugged little unit.

A "lock" feature prevents accidental switching between functions, once one has been selected.

In order to reach its full 2500mAh battery capacity, the mPowerPad's 4-watt solar panel must bask in the Sun for a little under six hours - it can likewise be charged from mains power or a car adapter in just one hour. A full charge is said to provide up to 20 hours of 8 watt bulb-equivalent illumination, radio listening, or bug-bothering. That figures goes down to 4-5 hours if it's simultaneously charging another device. The pad can also completely recharge an iPhone, reportedly in the same amount of time it would take using a traditional AC outlet.

The mPowerPad was unveiled in Singapore this month, and should start shipping in January. It is priced at US$80.