Ambient Photonics Unveils Revolutionary Indoor Solar Cells

California-based company Ambient Photonics has unveiled its latest innovation in indoor solar cells at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024 in Las Vegas.


In a significant leap towards sustainable and battery-free devices, California-based company Ambient Photonics has unveiled its latest innovation in indoor solar cells at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024 in Las Vegas. The company, backed by funding from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, has been perfecting this emerging technology since 2019, with a focus on enhancing both performance and affordability.

The breakthrough lies in Ambient’s ability to create solar cells that thrive in low light conditions, paving the way for the elimination of traditional batteries in everyday devices such as remote controls and wireless keyboards. These cells, referred to as ‘bifacial cells,’ are capable of harvesting light energy from both sides, showcasing a versatility that promises to reshape the landscape of electronic devices.

Indoor solar power operates by utilizing shaded natural light and artificial light sources like LEDs and halogen bulbs. The low-light solar cells, an evolution of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) from the 1990s, efficiently convert any available light source into power. Although slower at converting light energy compared to conventional silicon cells, they offer a cost-effective solution for a continuous and eco-friendly power source for smart devices in homes, offices, and other indoor environments.

Bates Marshall, the CEO and co-founder of Ambient Photonics, emphasized the significance of this development, stating, “Solar power has long been an option for certain low-power electronics like calculators or toys, but it’s taken breakthrough science from Ambient Photonics to develop high-performance solar cell technology for mass-market devices.”

The newly introduced bifacial solar cells, made with optically clear glass, mark a substantial advancement. These cells can harvest light energy simultaneously from both the front and back sides, potentially tripling the output of conventional silicon cells and increasing the output of Ambient’s single-sided cells by 50 percent.

The practical application of this technology means that devices equipped with these cells, such as remote controls, can be placed face up or down, ensuring continuous power generation.

Ambient Photonics has joined forces with Google, and together they plan to release a groundbreaking solar-powered device in 2024, making it the first of its kind to leverage the potential of bifacial cells. This collaboration reflects a concerted effort to integrate sustainability into everyday technology.

The environmental impact of indoor solar cells is substantial. By harnessing ambient light power, electronics manufacturers can potentially keep billions of batteries out of landfills, contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions. Ambient’s indoor solar cells have already found applications in products like remote controls by Universal Electronics and a wireless keyboard by Chicony. The company is also collaborating with electronic paper manufacturer E Ink to incorporate the technology into electronic shelf labels.

Ambient Photonics’ California hub stands as one of the world’s largest low-light solar cell manufacturing facilities, and the first of its kind in the US. Capable of producing tens of millions of units annually, the company is poised to meet the growing demand for its technology. Plans are underway for a second US-based smart manufacturing facility in 2025, underscoring the company’s commitment to providing a sustainable power alternative and an intelligent, low-emission production methodology for high-volume electronics.

Ambient Photonics’ breakthrough in indoor solar power technology represents a significant stride towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future for electronic devices. The ability to seamlessly integrate solar cells into everyday items, coupled with the advancements in bifacial technology, marks a transformative moment in the electronics industry, promising a paradigm shift towards cleaner and more efficient power sources.