Solar-powered Surface? Microsoft wins patent for device cover lined with charging panels

A drawing of solar panels attached to a Microsoft Surface-like device. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Photo)

A future generation of Microsoft Surface tablets could feature solar charging capabilities if a new patent granted to the tech giant this week comes to fruition.

The patent, first spotted by Windows Latest, is for a “mobile device cover with integrated solar panels.” Drawings show a Surface Pro-like device with four solar panels attached to the cover. The patent notes that more panels could be added to increase charging power.

In the filing, Microsoft notes that solar cell-based charging exists in some forms today, such as when a device is stored in a bag. However, Microsoft says, there’s not an option for solar charging when a device is in use, and that’s what the tech giant is trying to tackle.

Plus, the panels would still work in gloomy Seattle because they can be powered by artificial light sources, according to the filing.

Battery life remains an important feature for any phone, tablet or laptop, with companies jockeying for new breakthroughs that will free people from searching for an outlet every few hours. A fully solar solution could revolutionize personal computing and give Microsoft’s hardware division a major boost.

While the drawings show Surface tablets, Microsoft is careful to discuss the plans in terms of “mobile devices.” Microsoft is jumping back into making smartphones following the unveiling of the Surface Duo last year. It will be interesting to see — should this technology ever make it to market — if Microsoft restricts it to Surface Pros, or if it aims bigger and applies solar charging to Surface Duo or even smartphones made by other companies as well.

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