This week at TreeHugger: We discover a wireless camera that isn't depedent on the power grid to keep on taping (and is perfect for spying on your neighbors). Plus, bamboo isn't just for pandas anymore; Doshisha University and Panasonic have created a speaker made with the stuff that offers a more extensive sound range. Sun Microsystems unveiled their new ultra energy-efficient PCs that consume fewer watts than a night light. Finally, we look into a company that claims to be able to recycle ambient energy (like radio waves and energy given off by kitchen microwaves) and use it to power household appliances.
There are lots of cameras out there made for wireless transmission, but this wireless 2.4GHz solar camera and receiver takes it one step further because it's powered by the sun; hence, no plug for power and no wires to speak of. When the camera's passive infrared motion sensor detects motion, images and sound automatically begin transmitting. The camera has adjustable transmission times, but will continue to transmit as long as the infrared eye is triggered, which will be as long as anything is happening within 26 feet. The sun provides all the power needed to keep the camera battery charged during the day and while the camera will work after dark, it does require a minimum light of 3 Lux to be able to see your neighbor's dog digging through your garbage cans.
Back in the good old days, we thought bamboo was just for pandas; we gave up that idea a while ago, and a collaboration between Doshisha University and Panasonic means those cuddly black and white bears are really going to have to learn to share. The University and the electronics manufacturer have put their heads together to create a speaker that uses bamboo fibers instead of something like magnesium, thermoplastic or titatium. Bamboo is much more durable than some other materials currently used in speakers, and it offers a more extensive sound range, too. Don't worry about the pandas, though; bamboo grows fast enough to keep us all in a fresh supply.
Sun Microsystems recently unveiled the Sun Ray 2 and Sun Ray 2FS, their latest in super-efficient, low-consumption PCs. In addition to being slim and sexy, the Sun Ray's typical power consumption is very low: approximately four watts, compared to a typical desktop which consumes over 80 watts. Sun also claims that they are virtually immune from virus attacks, although there's no word on whether or not it will play Quake 3.
Lastly, a Hawaiian company named Ambient Micro LLC is developing systems to recycle radio waste. That is, ambient energy from a myriad of sources — cell phones, wireless routers, TVs — anything with a plug, and more. According to Ambient, it's everywhere: "From communications towers to kitchen microwaves, from sunshine to hot sidewalks, energy radiates all around us. But much of it is wasted, like unfinished meals tossed out at a restaurant." Company President Scott Weeker is cautiously optimistic: "Ambient energy is free, clean, natural energy. The bad news is that the amount of energy from these sources is still fairly small. It's not yet practicable to power an electric car or even a laptop. The good news is that the amount of power needed for new devices is dropping rapidly." We're holding out for the bamboo speakers but would settle for a smoke alarm — anything to stop the infernal "low battery" beeping.
TreeHugger's EcoModo appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.