Ever experience the dread of a dead cellphone before an appointment with an important customer ? Or even worse, with the love of your life ? Soon the young company Wysips, out of Aix (France), will remedy this nightmare situation. The SunPartner subsidiary will launch in September 2012 a new type of smartphone screen that integrates solar cells. Avoid black screens and untimely charging. “Our first model will have a capacity of 10 milliwatts per square centimeter. This corresponds to a recharge of 15 minutes of talk for an hour of sun exposure. The full charge will take about six hours,” says Ludovic Deblois, co-founder of Wysips (”What You See Is Photovoltaic Surface”). Additionally, the screen will also capture interior light. Even while chained to his desk, a worker can recharge his or her mobile with no outlet, provided he or she is patient.
To design this innovative screen, rather than try to develop transparent solar cells, the Wysips team aimed to make them invisible to the naked eye. “Our expertise is the miniaturization of photovoltaic cells. The principle is that we have a primary layer of fiber optics that directs light to a second silicon layer. The layering helps achieve complete transparency.” The fruit of two years of R & D, this device is also designed to be easily integrated without altering the phone’s interior. The solar screen can be connected to a “power management” chip which can, if desired, directly power the camera and / or charge its battery.
A euro per equipped smartphone
“If we move quickly, we could have the same success as the touch screen a few years ago. We are aware of the potential of our technology,” Deblois predicts. An ambition already confirmed - in March - by their win of the “Green Telecom and Smart Energy Solutions” Trophy as part of the CTIA in Orlando (Florida). Following this award, Wysips has also been contacted by many device and component manufacturers to equip mobile phones, as well as tablets, billboards and textiles. “We are targeting a production cost of one euro per screen. It’s not very expensive. For the manufacturer, the cost can be neutralized if it uses this new feature as an opportunity to reduce the battery size.” Promises that could worry specialized manufacturers of recharge equipment (charger, batteries …). According to Deblois, a solar screen could produce enough energy to self-power a small electronic device such as an Ebook.
Focused itself on innovation, Wysips has elected to distribute its technology through a licensing model. If “solar phone” research costs are covered by SMEs, future applications will be developed via contracts with major manufacturers. Meanwhile, the project is materializing. In February, the company will go ahead with a first production run of the screen in Aix-en-Provence. “It will be a pilot line with an annual output capacity of 8 million units. But soon, production will reach several hundred million units. Large manufacturers will then take over.” While the mass distribution of solar screens will likely delight techies, it risks displeasing scatterbrained, tardy, and other kinds of fibbing folk. This technology makes the “failed battery” alibi a thing of the past.
And tomorrow ?
The “natural” market for Wysips now seems to be smart phones and electronic products. But the company hopes to one day integrate its technology into other everyday objects. “Our vision is to offer a single component within a highly efficient integration system. Within three years, we would like this technology to become a generic component,” explains Ludovic Deblois, co-founder of Wysips. “A little like a sticker that can be applied to different objects.” Wysips is also currently working on “solar blinds,” a product for which cell size constraints are less critical than for screens but which demands high flexibility.
Wysips in brief
- Parent company: SunPartner (founded 2008)
- Founded: 2008
- Headquarters: Aix-en-Provence (France)
- Employees: 15 people in July 2011, 20 people in December 2011, 50 employees in 2012
- Turnover (goals): 2 million euros in 2011, 10 million in 2012
- R&D Calendar: July 2010: first demonstrator; early 2011: first prototype; September 2012: first series.
- Competitor: Rohm