Computational creativity and the future of AI

Wysips technology can turn any surface into a PV power plant


March 29, 2011

Wafer thin and flexible - Wysips film technology allows light to pass through a semi-cylin...

Wafer thin and flexible - Wysips film technology allows light to pass through a semi-cylindrical lens onto thin strips of photovoltaic cells below, while also allowing the surface underneath to show through

Image Gallery (4 images)

Mobile phones sporting photovoltaic panels are nothing new but thanks to some lens wizardry, a French company recently showed off a prototype phone where the touchscreen display itself housed the solar-soaking cells. Similar to the lenticular optics which sends slightly different images to each eye for glasses-free 3D viewing, Wysips technology allows light to pass through a semi-cylindrical lens onto thin strips of photovoltaic cells below, while also allowing the surface underneath to show through. The developers say that many surfaces could potentially become self-sufficient power producers.

The idea for Wysips is said to have been inspired by the holographic process used on book covers, where the image changes depending on the viewing angle. "What if I used these lenses to concentrate light onto thin strips of photovoltaic material located between the image strips?" optics enthusiast Joël Gilbert asked himself. "From one angle we'd see the image and from another, the solar panel."

Diagram detailing how Wysips works

From there, a flexible lenticular film was developed onto which micron-sized photovoltaic strips were deposited. Viewed from certain angles, it appears transparent, but light hitting at just the right point results in energy production – both indoors and outside. The company says that its technology ranges in thickness from 0.1 to 0.5 mm and is about 10 percent efficient – which isn't too far from recent developments from the likes of Honda Soltec, and given the scope of potential applications, it's quite a marvel.

The French technology company has chosen to concentrate its initial development efforts on applications like mobile phones, LCD screens, digital tablets, technical textiles, outdoor displays and so on. The kind of power generated by the prototype mobile phone on show at CTIA 2011 probably won't be enough to make a smartphone completely battery-free, but should help to significantly extend the device's use before needing to be plugged into the mains for a top-up. The Wysips film would also sit below the capacitive surface, so shouldn't interfere with that glorious multi-touch interactivity we've all come to rely on.

The Wysips film on this CTIA prototype appears slightly darker than the underlying LCD scr...

This is an interesting development, full to bursting with potential. With Wysips currently looking for manufacturers ready to use its technology, it probably won't be too long before we see the first commercial examples hitting the shelves.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden

wow. free energy? or re-using energy is more like it.

Blue Lucero
30th March, 2011 @ 12:26 pm PDT

Renewable energy at the tip of your fingers. This is great!

Facebook User
30th March, 2011 @ 01:50 pm PDT

I think there are some big possibilities for this, but I don't think mobile phones are one of them. Most people keep their phones in their pockets or purses unless they're talking on them, so there is not that much sunlight exposure. Outdoor displays sound much more promising. If it's that transparent, they could put it on pretty much any surface that gets decent sunlight

2nd April, 2011 @ 08:06 am PDT

I patented this in '77.

Light-Concentrating Solar-Cell Coverslide US Patent No. 4,053,327 10/11/77

I believe that someone else patented it again since then.

This is not the right application for it. Unless the panel is pointing in the correct direction, the concentrated light will fall on the image, not on the active cell area.


Andrew M
4th April, 2011 @ 08:45 pm PDT

Doesn't the Toyota Prius use this idea to power it's air conditioner?

27th April, 2011 @ 03:29 am PDT
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