E Ink displays are known for their paper-like qualities including the ability to view the screens using only ambient lighting. In fact, unlike most electronic displays, the glare-free displays often look better in direct sunlight than they do indoors.

And soon you may be able to buy E Ink tablets and other devices that also use sunlight for power. Solar cell manufacturer Exeger has announced a partnership with E Ink to develop reference designs for “eNotes and other electronic ink products” with support for solar charging.

E Ink displays typically consume far less power than LCD or OLED displays, since they only use electricity when the page is refreshed… and it typically doesn’t have to be refreshed very often if you’re primarily using an E Ink device to read eBooks or documents.

That’s one of the reasons E Ink devices like Kindle, Kobo, and NOOK eReaders have battery life that’s measured in weeks rather than days.

But it also means that it doesn’t take much power to recharge a battery, which could make solar charging a good fit. While you’d have to leave a small solar charger in the sun for a long time to generate enough power to keep your phone or laptop going for more than a few minutes, a little charge goes a long way with an E Ink device.

Exeger says its first prototype product is an E Ink tablet with a cover that features the company’s “Powerfoyle” solar charging technology that converts light into power. It’s said to work not only with sunlight, but with “all forms of light,” which means that as long as you don’t store your device in a dark place, it should generate electricity that can “significantly extend the eNote’s battery life when exposed to light.”

It’s worth noting that the company isn’t claiming that its charging case will provide enough power to guarantee that you’ll never need to plug the eNote into a power source. But maybe it can help extend battery life from weeks to months.

Exeger and E Ink will show off its eNote + solar charging case solution at the Touch Taiwan show from April 19 through April 21, but there’s no word on if or when you’ll actually be able to buy one… and if it does eventually come to market, it probably won’t have the Exeger or E Ink names on the cover. The companies are positioning this as a reference design, which means they’re hoping other companies license the idea and produce their own products using the technology.

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  1. So… trickle charging a non-removable battery?

    Not a snarky remark. I’d be curious about the lifetime/durability of the built-in battery vs those found on more powerful devices (Android/iOS, etc).

    Leakage issue, device use in (sunny but) humid environments and so forth.

  2. Well, provided it’s not mutually exclusive with color, this would be just about perfect for E-Ink digital photo frames. No cords, no batteries you need to mess with, you just put the thing wherever and it’ll keep cycling through your images.

  3. I like that idea a lot, but doesn’t a solar panel have to be outside to charge (properly)? I could swear I’ve been told windows reflect most of the wavelengths that solar panels need.

    1. If that was the case, the solar powered calculators they had in schools back in the 1990s wouldn’t have worked.

      1. Yeah, now that you mention it, I have a couple of them too. Would they use a special film that uses, say, wavelengths from light bulbs maybe?