Solar panels on these backpacks can charge your mobile phone or iPod. In the future, flexible solar panels may even charge your laptop.
Foldable cell phones
Until recently, most electronic devices were controlled by pushing buttons, typing on a keyboard, or using a mouse. Today, most cells phones and tablet PCs have touch screens that allow the user to make selections by touching icons or letters directly on the display screen.
The basic idea of how most of these devices work is simple. A layer that stores electrical charge is placed on the glass panel of the screen. When a user touches the screen with his or her finger, or with a stylus pen, some of the charge is transferred to the user, so the charge on the layer decreases. This decrease is measured by sensors located at each corner of the screen, and this information is relayed to a processor inside the device, which determines what kind of action to take.
All of this is possible because these devices use screens that have thin and transparent coatings that are conductive and can hold a charge. Most portable devices today have screens that are coated with a conductive layer made of indium tin oxide. But this material is brittle, so it is layered on glass to protect and support it. This leads to thick and inflexible displays.
Touch screens made with graphene as their conductive element could be printed on thin plastic instead of glass, so they would be light and flexible, which could make cell phones as thin as a piece of paper and foldable enough to slip into a pocket. Also, because of graphene’s incredible strength, these cell phones would be nearly unbreakable. Scientists expect that this type of touch screen will be the first graphene product to appear in the marketplace.
Because graphene is thin and flexible, it could be integrated into “bionic” devices that would be implanted in living tissue. The term “bionic”—a mix of “biology” and “electronic”—refers to devices that help or improve an organ or tissue, such as artificial hearts or cochlear implants, which assist people with hearing loss.
Graphene is resistant to the salty ionic solutions inside living tissue, so bionic devices made of graphene could have long shelf lives, perhaps lasting a lifetime. This is in contrast to metallic parts that can corrode after a few years, possibly releasing toxic metals into the body.