This week at TreeHugger: We bring news of the maiden flight of the Zephyr, an aircraft that can fly nearly continuously thanks to a combination of solar power and low drag aerodynamics. Just when you thought the iPod accessory market might be saturated, we found this iPod nano case by Jimi, a 100% recycled plastic case that might help keep your nano from snapping like a graham cracker. Laptop manufacturer Averatec joins the latest TreeHugger craze by neutralizing three years worth of carbon emissions associated with its use. Finally, we bring news of the latest "power plant," as an electrical component company has figured out how to draw electricity out of trees.
The combination of solar panels on the upper wing surface and rechargeable batteries allows Zephyr to be flown for many weeks and even months at a time. Two of the aircraft were recently test-flown for four and a half and six hours respectively, which is the maximum flight times permitted under local restrictions. Though the maximum altitude attained was 27,000 feet above sea level, the ultra-light aircraft is designed to fly at altitudes as high as 132,000 feet (25 miles/40km), above normal commercial air-lanes and most weather. QinetiQ, the company developing and testing them, think that stratospheric platforms will rapidly become commercially viable and revolutionize communications. High altitude platforms of this sort could provide a cheaper alternative to satellites in remote areas and developing countries.
The iPod nano case from Jimi is the latest in a long line of ubiquitous accessories for Apple's ubiquitous media player, but it comes with a pretty unique distinction. Its hard plastic shell is made of 100% recycled material, and Jimi donates 1% of its profits to benefit the environment (all together now: Aww...). But seriously, Jimi doesn't take social responsibility lying down, earning a MWR (Made With Respect) seal on their products, meaning they pay living wages, don't do sweatshop, and manufacture right here in the US of A.
These days, there isn't anything that can't be made "climate neutral," and laptop manufacturer Averatec is the latest to sign up to the do-good action du jour. They pledged to neutralize CO2 emissions generated by the use of any Averatec laptop for three years, generated mostly by the production of the power they consume, through a partnership with German company Sustainable Partner GmbH. This isn't Averatec's first foray into reducing carbon emissions; the climate-neutral laptop initiative follows last year's campaign that saw Averatec neutralize one ton of CO2 emissions for each laptop purchased.
Lastly, a small electrical component company near Boston is giving new meaning to the phrase "power plant" with claims that they've figured out how to harvest electricity from trees. MagCap Engineering is pretty sure they've come up on the next renewable energy revolution. By pounding a nail into the trunk and a conductor into the ground, a faint but consistent charge can be detected in a wire running from the tree to the earth. They are now busy charging NiCad batteries, illuminating LEDs off the current and applying for a patent while MIT tests the phenomenon in the chilly Cambridge spring. A company spokesperson told The Boston Globe they hope to be able to charge hybrid batteries with the technology, but they also propose lighting roads with the tree power.
TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.