back to article Designer pitches solar-powered AA battery

It’s time to bin recycle your traditional batteries, according to one designer who’s dreamt up a solar battery that can be rolled up and slotted into your gadgets. Rollable_solar_battery_01 The Solar Soft Battery The Solar Soft Battery concept was designed by Wu Jian to provide an environmentally friendly way of collecting …


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  1. Jim


    SOunds good to me. It all depends on the capacity of the battery.

  2. Peter Ford
    Dead Vulture

    most gadgets... run on batteries of all shapes and sizes?

    You clearly don't have children - a huge number of electronic toys (especially pre-school and early-years stuff) use AA batteries - we go through hundreds in a year.

    This is a cool idea for that sort of thing...

    In any case, why would it not be possible to make a different form factor (like, say, a Nokia BLB-2-compatible) that folds up - might even be easier than a roll-up.

    The sooner mfrs standardise on a sensible Li-ion cell size, the better - we managed nicely with AA and AAA (and C and D, and PP3) for decades.

    At the moment I have a pile of USBCells for the kids toys, and a pile of always-on servers charging them at work :-)

  3. Frank Silver badge


    Some time ago, there was a Reg article/survey questioning what we mean by the term 'architect'.

    Can we have a similar discussion about the meaning of the word 'designer'?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I'd buy it ....

    The photo shows it being used in a camera ...... now with the huge number of batteries we go through in our camera I'd buy these if (1) they lasted a similar number of photos and (2) didn't take more than an hour or two to recharge.

    I'm also sure the wife could find some use for rechargable AA batteries too ....

  5. Torben Mogensen

    Battery sizes

    When I buy a new gadget, say a camera, I generally go for devices that use standard-sized batteries, as I know I can get these for a reasonable price. In many cases, it looks like the use of non-standard battery sizes is mandated mainly by the ability to charge a premium rather than any issue of size or design.

    Even though I mainly use rechargeable batteries, the ability to just go to any small corner store to get new batteries if I run out while on the go is an advantage I wouldn't want to miss.

  6. Tim Bergel
    Thumb Down

    The Solar Soft Battery does have a few potential drawbacks, though ...

    ... and thirdly it doesn't exist

  7. Dave

    "dreamt up a solar battery"

    I take it from the complete absence of any performance figures that this is currently nothing more than a plastic mock-up and a patent application?

    On the other hand, if performance is reasonable, then it is a good marketing trick, since you would need at least two sets of batteries - one to go in the appliance, and one or more to lie around recharging.

  8. Brangdon
    Paris Hilton

    What's wrong with Eneloops and a solar charger?

    Surely it'll always be better to use a solar charger and a normal AA rechargable battery? Building a charger into the battery takes up space that could be better used for capacity.

    Paris, because I expect she uses a lot of batteries.

  9. USBCELL Eco Bunny

    USBCELL as Alternative today to Alkaline

    To avoid binning batteries today, check out the USBCELL Rechargeable batteries instead ( see

    that can be recharged in USB ports on laptops, desktops or games consoles.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ AC

    Real Women use D batteries. According to Mrs AC....

    Paris, because she's seen the light of the duracell rabbit. I mean bunny.

  11. Haku

    Nice concept

    but I doubt it'll be of any use in an AA sized setup, how can you physically roll a solar cell battery combo that tight and have it not spring out in the device making it impossible to remove? it'd also be too easy for it to blow away in the wind when charging, if you could get the thing to unroll completely flat in the first place.

    Really the only way I could see this concept have any life would be to have the flexible solar cell wrapped round a normal cell - ie an AAA sized batteryl with a flexible solar panel so when it's wrapped up it becomes an AA sized battery, or AA sized battery with flexible panel to become a C sized battery.

    In the end it all seems like too much effort, even those mini portable solar battery chargers are pretty much useless with today's high power demanding devices & our typical British weather.

  12. James Hughes

    Original Thought at last....

    Just the sort of thinking that the world needs. It may not bear fruit this time, but it's a great idea.

  13. Gareth

    Flat version?

    Ignoring all puns about batteries going flat, I wonder if there's any reason it has to be rolled up?

    If it could still work properly in it's unrolled/flexible state then a larger, but super-thin battery could produce some interesting possibilities for very thin devices - especially if the cost is comparable to a standard AA battery.

    Disposable digital paper, anyone?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    A few questions

    Does "soft solar" exist?

    Does "soft battery" exist?

    Does the "flexible electrode" exist?

    What is a "viscous nanomaterial", and why would you need any viscous substance *outside* the chemical energy cell??

  15. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    re: I'd buy it

    AA batteries can 't really deliver the power - unless, that is, you assume that she's done when you are.

  16. bluesxman

    RE: most gadgets...

    Hear of traditional rechargeable batteries much?

    With a mediocre pair of 1500mAH I can easily eek out a full evening of pissed up photography (circa 150 shots) and still have enough juice to show them off 2/3 times at the pub the next day. Throw in a set of 2300mAH and I can managed a whole Glasto's worth of photo snappery.

  17. Dale

    I'm a designer too

    I've just designed a clean cold fusion charger for mobile phones. It comes supplied as a pre-gummed flat panel which you stick over the earpiece of your mobile, and not only does it wirelessly provide 100000 years of standby time or 40000 years of talktime, saving you money and eliminating climate change, but it also shields you from radiation emitted by the phone antenna and stops your head from heating up and exploding.

  18. Martin Lyne

    Good idea

    You could extend it by having devices allow extension of panel when in use, or more likely, their own panel built in. Assuming charging mode disbles the device, varying battery output probably not a good thing.

    Stick some flexy E-Ink shit on the back and you have yourselves a rechargable eNewspaper/eBook reader.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC "real women use D batteries"?

    my GF loves her small portable AA devices. Easier to pack for road trips:)

  20. david wilson


    I'd echo the earlier wonderings about capacity - it doesn't seem likely to be at all good compared to real AA cells.

    Anyway, isn't it generally going to be much better from a materials and energy-saving point of view to have proper-sized grid-connected solar cells generating electricity whenever it's light, and then charge proper rechargeable cells from the mains?

    Even somewhere off-grid, dividing the job of generating and storing power seems likely to have definite advantages for most people.

    I could see *possible* applications, but they do seem pretty small niches, and they could already be covered by someone just carrying a regular small solar charger.

  21. Jacob Lipman

    Interesting, but...

    But do the materials to build this exist? If so, the only useful application that occurs to me is already performed better with a solar charger. Something like this would be great for camping and/or power outages (so long as all you wish to power is a flashlight or two - I'm not envisioning a refrigerator running on AAs), but again, a solar charger and conventional rechargeable batteries would likely be far superior, and right now they are infinitely so, seeing as they actually exist.

  22. W

    Re: Designer?

    "Can we have a similar discussion about the meaning of the word 'designer'?"

    Indeed. How about engineer while we're at it.

    -Check out my idea - "wafferthin" batteries!

    >They've already been thought of, and they're tricky to implement.

    - OK. But what if they roll up to the size of a standard battery cell.

    >Yeah, they'll probably do that as a version when they've cracked the incredibly difficult chemical and physical challenges.

    -Whatever. Mine is rechargeable.

    >They'll be working on that.

    -No problem. Mine's solar, too.

    >Well that's definitely one way to secure some "green" cred and column inches with impressionable journos.

    -Especially with my model.

    >You have a model.

    -Yessiree. Check out my glossy 3DS Max render.


    It seems that every year we get a rash of "products" cropping up, all at a similar time. Something to do with the scheduling of graduate shows perhaps?

    I've done a BA in Industrial Design (and, for what it's worth, a BEng too - so put the knives away :-) ) and at no time were we allowed to get away with such flights of fancy as that seen here. We were always required to develop realistic designs and give a credible account of how the thing was gonna be made. As opposed to just mocking up some fantasy in 3DS Max.

    I'm all for creative thinking, but without some grounding in realistic "big E" Engineering possibilities it's more accurately described as Art.

    We've got the USB Cell, we've got standard rechargeable cells, this roll-up solar notion is pie in the sky. We'd be much better off working on larger-scale renewable energy generation further up the supply chain, that would support the already existing aforementioned devices. Imho.

    Mine's the one with the roll-up solar power station in the pocket.

    PS: Any news on the "modular shelf PC" from Asus? -

  23. storng.bare.durid
    Thumb Up

    My design (patent-pending) trumps yours...

    ... it has fuzzy dice,

  24. Steve

    Not a very good designer.

    What a silly way of making a roll up solar battery. Any smart ‘designer’ would instead opt for a solid battery core with a flexible solar sheet around it. Aside from fatigue (and more to go wrong), it would also eliminate the need for: a soft battery, soft electrode and a magical ‘nano material’. Me? I’ll remain with my more convenient and financially superior solution of using relatively higher capacity cells and my single external charger (wall/solar powered or otherwise) to charge cell in situ. (surely I didn't have to be a real ‘inventor’ with numerous inventive patents in my name to realise that)

  25. Anonymous Coward

    This is old tech

    This technology was demonstrated on BBC's Tomorrows World with working production run AA, C, and D cells containing 2/3 battery and 1/3 solar cell. Admittedly low capacity but with it being NiCad or nothing it was comparable to the alternative. If used with Li-Ion/Ni-MH/Li-Poly etc then it would have very good chance of going somewhere. I don't see anything really different from what was demonstrated nearly 20 years ago.

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