7 Solar Sensations: From Your Pocket to the Sky

Photo: Solar Sensations: Solar Technologies

The sky would be the limit if it were possible to effectively harness the power of the sun.

That's not the case yet. But now that President Barack Obama and other world leaders are committing to developing green technology, experts say we could be getting closer.

Jeremy Kaplan, editor of GoodCleanTech.com, said that in the past eight to 12 months, there has been a boom in green technology, including solar. "It's all a response to the Obama administration's investments in green technology," he said.

After decades of not investing in it, solar technology isn't where it could be. But, with new federal support, he thinks that will change.

"We can do some really innovative stuff given the the extra funding," he said. "We'll see solar cells invade our lives over the next couple of years."

In the meantime, here are a few stand-outs offering a sneak preview.

Solar-Powered Aircraft Takes Flight This Week

Solar Impulse's solar-powered aircraft may only have room for two, but make no mistake about it -- this plane is a big deal. The aircraft, dubbed the HB-SIA, brings aviation innovators one step closer to a solar-powered commercial airplane.

The plane's specs include a wingspan of about 200 feet, a weight of about 3,527 pounds and a maximum altitude of about 27,887 feet. At the project's helm are Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the men behind Solar Impulse.

Piccard and Borschberg will unveil the plane's prototype Friday and, if the plane's test flights go well, plan to build a second plane in 2011, with the eventual aim of completing a flight around the globe.

'Blue Earth' Phone Charges Via Solar Panel

In the spirit of 21st century technology, Samsung's solar-powered "Blue Earth" cell phone matches innovation with an environmental conscience.

The phone, made available this week in Asia, is made from recycled plastic, packaged in recycled paper and equipped with a built-in pedometer that allows users to measure their individual carbon footprints.

"Blue Earth" is charged via a solar panel on its back, a device so efficient, Samsung claims, users can make calls on the phone "anytime anywhere."

The Tent of the Future?

If the Jetson family went camping, this is the tent they would choose.

Unveiled by French telecom giant Orange earlier this week, this solar concept tent uses specially-coated solar threads to harness the sun's energy. With that power, the tent charges gadgets that are placed in a special pouch and provides a wireless Internet signal.

The tent celebrates Orange's 11th year at the U.K.'s Glastonbury music festival and was designed with the festival-goer in mind. The U.S. product design consulting company Kaleidoscope contributed to the project, which builds on similar tents from 2003 and 2004.

To help campers find their tents in crowded music festivals at night, the tent uses so-called "glo-cation" technology. A text message sent from a cell phone triggers the tent to glow in the dark.

And once the interior temperature drops below a certain point, a heater embedded in the tent's groundsheet automatically switches on.

It all sounds pretty dreamy. But if you're a strict, no-creature comforts camper, take heart: It's all just a vision for now. No plans are underway to bring it to market yet.

Solar-Powered Bus Stations

Later this year, residents of Florence, Italy, will get to touch a piece of the future, literally.

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