LCD displays are notorious power wasters and a huge source of battery drain in mobile devices. What if they could collect energy instead of just using it? That’s the goal of two teams of researchers working to integrate solar cells into traditional LCD components. The first group is adding light-harvesting solar tech into polarizing filters for standard screens, while the second is working on color filters for e-ink displays.
Although prototype filters have been created by both camps, the potential for power savings isn’t as great as one might hope. The color filter is only expected to generate "tens of milliwatts" of power, while the polarizing prototype converts just 3-4% of the light hitting it into usable energy. The UCLA engineering team behind the latter expects to hit 10% efficiency by tweaking the materials used in the filter, though.
Integrating solar cells into LCD displays may not dramatically improve the battery life of mobile devices, but it’s nice to see efforts being made. Intel is actually funding the UCLA group that’s working on the polarizing filter. Both projects appear to be in the very early stages, so we probably won’t see the technology pop up in actual devices for quite some time.