I love the idea of solar panels. They're a natural, green source of power that can juice up gear and keep gadgets from dying. Thing is, current offerings for mobile tend to be bulky and, given the size, often don't work so well. I've tried at least half a dozen or so such products, and being huge, clunky and weak, they far from live up to the hype.

Enter the University of Alberta. Researchers there are working on a unique project to put itty bitty solar cells inside material that can be sprayed on, rolled out or even sewn on to fabric and other surfaces. The implications of this are huge for public works, emergency services, and yes, maybe even consumer products.

Picture it: A near endless potential for power, without a fat battery, chubby standalone solar panel or thick case. Makers could just turn part of a device's exterior into a solar panel with a quick spray.

I'd love to see smartphones, tablets — heck, even cars — make use of this for a no-bulk way to impart some power. And why stop there? Any outdoor gear could be coated in this — like barbecue grills, camping cooktops, or even self-powered audio for an all-day shindig. Because it can be applied to existing items, it would also give old gear some new life. Unfortunately the spray-on cells aren't ready for commercial use yet, as it's still in testing mode, but if it makes it to market, I could see it having far-reaching implications.

What do you think? Have you got any gear you'd be dying to solar-ify?

[via PopGadget]