The small strips of solar cells located on the front panels of today’s small portable consumer, healthcare and security devices is a valuable source of free energy, which can now be utilised to more effect with a new advanced battery­charging IC from STMicroelectronics.

The IC increases charging efficiency either indoor or outdoor, using the sun’s ­radiated energy, enabling longer mobile equipment runtime and avoiding an unexpected lack of power when a mains connection is not available. The SPV1040 is a step-up DC-DC converter, tailored to be used as a solar battery charger for portable applications. It employs Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), a technique for collecting the maximum possible energy from solar cells. The device can be ­connected to strips of even just a few cells, allowing use in products such as portable healthcare devices, watches, wireless headsets or mobile phones. The battery charger and technology can also be used in equipment such as sensors and security cameras.