California-based startup Ambient Photonics has revealed a groundbreaking solar cell technology designed to recharge devices using ambient indoor light, such as remote controls. The innovation was showcased at CES 2024, where the company announced a collaboration with Google to incorporate this technology into an upcoming consumer product slated for a 2024 release.

Ambient Photonics is not only focusing on remote controls but is also developing a solar-powered computer mouse. Remarkably, none of the devices, including the mysterious Google product, will require disposable batteries or conscious recharging, according to the company. The key feature of the new cells is their bifacial nature, allowing them to harvest and generate energy from both sides, thereby powering various home electronics.

Inspired by photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy, these photovoltaic cells contain light-sensitive dye molecules that transform photons into electrons, creating a charge differential that facilitates the flow of electricity. Similar to how chlorophyll generates power from photons in photosynthesis, Ambient Photonics’ technology achieves remarkable power density through what Joshua Wright, Vice President of Engineering at the company, describes as “superior dye chemistry.”

The company’s proprietary dyes, based on over 40 organic sensitizer molecules, absorb light across the entire visible electromagnetic spectrum, akin to other solar panels. The reduction in the need for disposable batteries aligns with environmental goals, potentially curbing electronic waste, as billions of batteries end up in landfills annually.

While solar power technology has existed for decades, generating sufficient power for devices in low-light conditions has been a persistent challenge. Previous attempts fell short, with traditional photovoltaic innovations proving inadequate for real-world, low-light operational conditions. However, Ambient Photonics claims that its technology harvests three times more light than comparable solutions.

Joshua Wright highlighted that traditional high-performance, low-light photovoltaic technologies, such as gallium arsenide cells, have been cost-prohibitive for mass-market electronics. Ambient Photonics aims to address this gap in the market, making its technology suitable for everyday consumer devices. As the company collaborates with Google and plans a 2024 product launch, the solar cell technology promises to revolutionize how we power and recharge electronic devices indoors.

By Impact Lab