Sony's new demonstration Hana-Akari lighting unit contains a neat innovation: Dye-sensitized solar power generating cells that allow for different colors and patterns to be designed into the light-capturing surface.
The photosynthesis-alike cells capture and convert light energy in a thin membrane that's relatively low-cost and easy to manufacture using existing silicon-based technology. And since it's possible to vary both the color and texture of the dye-layer, solar panels need no-longer be the featureless grey slabs they now are. The Hana-Akari lights Sony has just demonstrated bear a floral pattern that you'd never guess at first glance was a power-generating system.
It's hard to imagine aesthetics are a key reason why solar-powered technology isn't more ubiquitous, but at least this innovation will allow manufacturers to incorporate solar panels in devices without compromising the gadget's look and feel, and that in turn may result in greater applications. The potential knock-on effects are of course beneficial to the environment, and the on-looker's eye.