Renewable energy as solar energy is finding favour with manufacturers and consumers alike. Renewable energy is just that – energy that can be renewed – and includes wind energy, wave energy, geothermal energy and biofuels. The energy provided from these sustainable sources now accounts for around 16% of the world’s energy consumption and that figure is set to increase. Solar power has a big role to play in the picture, with applications ranging from heating residential houses and domestic cooking to use in agriculture and water treatment facilities.
Solar energy can be categorised as active or passive, with active solar power using photovoltaic solar panels to capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electrical energy. As sunlight is absorbed, electrons in the semiconducting materials are excited and begin to move, producing electricity.
Mobile accessory manufacturers are seeing the light when it comes to using renewable energy. In response to increasing demand for chargers that can work away from conventional power sources, there are now a number of solar-powered mobile phone chargers appearing on the market. So whether you’re a big camping or festival fan or need an alternative power source for holidays, or you just like the idea of tapping into the sun’s energy to restore life to your mobile, you can now rest assured that you need never run out of charge again.
Mobile chargers use this energy in two different ways. The first is to recharge the mobile’s battery, which might be in the form of either lithium ion or removable nickel cadmium (NiCad) or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) AA batteries. There are advantages to both lithium ion and AA batteries; lithium batteries are lightweight and have the capacity to hold more charge, but AA batteries are more versatile and can also be used for other devices. This type of mobile charger allows a steady build-up and discharge of power, which is good for both the mobile phone’s battery and also a more reliable system in terms of providing consistent charge.
The second type of solar-powered charger charges the mobile directly from a solar panel. This type of charger typically works via a 12V adaptor, similar to cigarette lighter adaptors for use in cars. The advantages of this system include instant power, but there are a few concerns to be aware of. If there aren’t clear blue skies then even a passing cloud can disrupt the charge, and your mobile may not accept charge if it flows under a certain rate. Mobile phones are also restricted in the amount of charge they can accept, so even if there is optimum sunlight they may not charge any quicker. The size of the panel is still important though, as larger panels can continue to provide a decent amount of charge in lower light conditions.
Several solar-powered chargers come with connectors to fit straight into your mobile; the more versatile include a variety of connectors to suit different mobile types. Some manufacturers are also starting to use USB ports, which require a USB to mini-USB or USB to phone connector. Always check that the charger is compatible with your mobile before purchasing as not all chargers are suitable for use with all mobile phones. Solar-powered chargers come in all kinds of fun and funky designs, including folding types and straps. You can also buy solar chargers for your Bluetooth headset, speaker phone and similar devices.
So while solar-powered mobile chargers may not have caught on for mainstream use yet, they are an increasingly available and attractive option for short trips and emergency use. Like other forms of renewable energy, solar energy is becoming incorporated into the energy spectrum. As manufacturers find ever more ingenious ways to make solar-powered systems more effective and efficient, we can look forward to many more innovative advancements in the field. So long as the sun keeps shining, of course.