Solar Technology Advances: The End of Batteries and Charging for Devices

Devices will no longer need to be charged and we will not have to think about how much battery we have

by Sededin Dedovic
Solar Technology Advances: The End of Batteries and Charging for Devices
© Thoughty2 / Youtube channel

Every six seconds, a specialized printer in a factory on the northern edge of Stockholm produces sheets worth thousands of euros. Each sheet contains 108 miniature solar cells that will soon find their place in everyday devices – from keyboards to headphones.

This advancement in solar technology is set to fundamentally change our relationship with technology. According to their creator, they will even make us rethink our relationship with light. Sweden may seem like an unexpected location for a solar revolution, but the lack of light during the winter months was one of the reasons why Exeger co-founder Giovanni Fili looked beyond the Sun as the sole energy source for a photovoltaic cell.

His company's technology can collect electricity from virtually any light source, from direct sunlight to candlelight. It can even generate voltage from moonlight, though this would take too long to be useful. "Like algae at the bottom of the ocean where it is almost completely dark, we can efficiently use very few photons," Fili told The Independent.

The shirt he wears describes his company's technology as "world-changing," capable of simultaneously addressing the global need for energy and some of the biggest environmental challenges on our planet.

Light around us is an infinite source of energy

Indoor solar panels have existed for decades.

Solar calculators were first introduced in the 1970s, but the limitations of the amorphous silicon cells they rely on mean they are too weak, too fragile, and too rigid to integrate into other products. The latest innovation stems from a 1988 discovery related to dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC).

A pair of scientists from UC Berkeley in California invented a cheap, highly efficient cell that was both semi-flexible and semi-transparent, enabling the commercial development of the technology. More than 20 years later, Fili and his co-founder of Exeger, Henrik Lindström, developed a new electrode material that offered 1,000 times better conductivity.

This breakthrough in technology laid the foundation for their Powerfoyle cell, which is now being produced on a commercial level. Exeger's Powerfoyle solar cells offer a radical shift from traditional glass-covered panels, eliminating the need for silver lines that you see on them, which serve as conductors.

They are also not sensitive to partial shading, which drastically reduces the efficiency of classic photovoltaic panels.

The End of Batteries and Charging for Devices© Thoughty2 / Youtube channel

Powerfoyle is a radical leap forward in solar technology

The patented skin-like material can even be transformed into almost any material to allow seamless integration into a wide range of products, while remaining waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof.

"It works in any light conditions, is more durable than any other solar cell in the world, is easy to manufacture, and can mimic any surface – leather, carbon fiber, wood, brushed steel. It is also beautiful," says Fili.

"So, we can integrate into products that are already sold in billions of units annually." Exeger's factory in Stockholm has a production capacity of 2.5 million square meters of solar cells annually, making it the largest factory of its kind in Europe.

Speaking at the factory opening in 2021, Fili predicted that Exeger's technology would "touch the lives of a billion people by 2030." Powerfoyle solar cells have already found their place in seven products on the market – including headphones, wireless speakers, and a bicycle helmet – with six more announced.

Customers include Adidas, Philips, and 3M, and there are also rumors of negotiations with companies like Logitech and Apple.

Powerfoyle© Exegerb/ Youtube channel

A future without batteries

American company Ambient Photonics entered this field due to the "magical" potential of the smart home, as well as the hope that it will be possible to eliminate the need for disposable batteries.

Exeger is one of several startups leading the commercialization of indoor solar panels, with the promise of clean, infinitely available energy attracting both researchers and entrepreneurs. "The scale at which smart electronics can be deployed is limited by battery life and the use of traditional batteries, which require continuous recharging, limit product design, and have negative environmental consequences," Bates Marshall, co-founder and CEO of Ambient Photonics, told The Independent.

Remote controls alone are responsible for the disposal of 3.1 billion disposable batteries each year, according to estimates by Samsung. The Korean electronics giant has made it a priority to switch from alkaline batteries to photovoltaic energy, claiming this could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 6,000 tons annually.

Ambient Photonics' DSSC cells have so far been integrated into remote controls, although limitations in terms of the amount of heat and light they can be exposed to mean the technology is currently limited to indoor applications.

The universality and durability of Exeger's Powerfoyle cells mean that the only limitations are energy-intensive devices such as laptops and smartphones – although they could significantly extend their battery life by 50-100 percent.

Exeger is also exploring a solar-powered tablet cover that could provide enough energy for users to never need to charge the device.

Our grandchildren will laugh because we used cables

One trend Fili has noticed is that users of Powerfoyle products have become much more aware of their surroundings and the presence of light in their lives.

"We make people aware of light," he says, "because light is energy." Fili is driven by the belief that Powerfoyle technology is one that defines the era. Exeger was the first to commercialize the technology at this level, although it is still relatively in its infancy given that Fili sees everyone on the planet as a potential user.

Others are confident in his claims, with Forbes comparing him to figures such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. The technology behind Exeger's solar cells, like the printers that produce them, is a closely guarded secret.

Even the purpose of the thousands of Powerfoyle cells currently being printed every minute in the Stockholm factory is not yet publicly known. (The elongated shape suggests they will be used in a product most of us use every day – the one on which this article was typed), reports The Independent.

"This is truly, truly a huge achievement," says Fili. "We have just secured a contract with the world's largest supplier of keyboards and mice, and we have already partnered with some of the largest companies and brands on the planet. This technology will take over the world."