The great thing about solar energy is that sunlight is a plentiful resource all around us, practically begging us to take advantage of it. While we’re often getting glimpses of amazing industrial applications of the technology - like this phenomenal solar road in the Netherlands - we could also make our use of small-scale personal technology simpler and more environmentally conscious if we had the right kinds of consumer-friendly solar chargers.
That’s the thinking behind ‘Solar Paper’, which claims to be the world’s thinnest and lightest personal solar charger.
How thin? Well with each of the device’s solar sheets measuring a scant 1.5 mm thick along the length of their panel, this is a charger that you could literally use as a bookmark if you are so inclined - a marketing point its makers YOLK, a solar charger startup based in the US, are only too happy to point out.
Admittedly, the top end (featuring a USB port and tiny LCD read-out telling you the current charge being generated) is noticeably thicker at 1.1 cm, but the overall impression is definitely still one of slimness. You can even drape it around the exterior of your backpack to soak up some rays while hiking if you’re of a mind. A single panel only weighs 120 grams, so it’s not exactly burdensome.
The overall size of the panel is a little larger than a ‘phablet’ smartphone like the iPhone 6 Plus, measuring 19cm long by 9cm wide. And speaking of smartphones, YOLK claims Solar Paper can charge an iPhone 6 in approximately 2.5 hours.
Perhaps Solar Paper’s neatest trick is that it uses embedded magnets so you can easily link together extra panels depending on your charging requirements. Each panel outputs 2.5W, allowing you to choose between 2.5 W, 5 W, 7.5 W and 10 W charging configurations - with the latter being the amount of power you’d need to charge a tablet.
At time of writing, Solar Paper will be receiving funding via Kickstarter for another 37 days. The team has already earned US$218,836 in pledges, surpassing their original funding goal of US$50,000. This means the project is scheduled to go into production once the funding round concludes, with the first batch of Solar Paper units expected to ship to customers in September.
If you’re in the market for a new solar charger and only paper-thin will do, US$69 will fetch you the basic 5 W two-panel version, with three- and four-panel models costing a little more.