Apple had forty new patents granted today. New integrated touch sensor and solar panel configuration.
Apple was granted a patent today for their invention relating to integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations that may be used on portable devices, particularly handheld portable devices such as a media player or phone.
According to Apple, the integrated touch sensor array and solar cell stack-ups may include electrodes that are used both for collecting solar energy and for sensing on a touch sensor array. By integrating both the touch sensors and the solar cell layers into the same stack-up, surface area on the portable device may be conserved.
The integrated touch sensor and solar panel may include electrodes that provide the same coverage as a typical solar panel electrode, but provides far more quadrants or pixels that may be used as touch sensors. The electrode terminals may be connected in parallel in order to draw power from the cell during a solar power cycle. The terminals may then be connected as separate quadrants during a touch sensor cycle. A multiplexer (MUX) may be used to selectively switch between power conversion circuitry and touch sensing circuitry during power and touch sensing cycles respectively.
In addition to being used for capacitive sensing, the integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations may also be used for optical sensing. Unlike the capacitive sensing, the optical sensing may be accomplished simultaneously with power production. Accordingly, optical sensing may be used to increase the amount of time that the solar panel is used to produce energy.
For example, the solar panel may operate in a solar power and optical sensing mode. When an approaching object, such as a finger, is detected the solar panel may switch to a capacitive sensing mode to more precisely locate the object. Alternatively, the solar panel may cycle between solar power/optical sensing mode and capacitive sensing mode. When no object is detected by optical sensing or capacitive sensing the number of capacitive cycles in a given t