A team led by Penn State researchers has succeeded in building silicon fibers thinner than a human hair that can act as solar cells. If the work scales up to produce longer fibers as well as the team thinks it could, these solar energy absorbing threads could be woven into clothing in the future. So if you've ever wanted a jacket that can pull in energy through the fibers it's made of and use it charge your phone while you take a stroll in the park, take heart -- you might be getting it sooner than expected.
In a resounding case of "it's about freaking time," 2011 will be the year that chargers for almost all mobile phones start adopting a new standard based on the microUSB connector. The process began in 2009, when 14 prominent mobile manufacturers (including Apple, LG, Motorola, and Research in Motion, maker of Blackberry phones) realized that it might be nice to A) not have to throw away perfectly good chargers after a phone upgrade and B) be able to lend said chargers to others when their phones are dead. Finally.